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TEX@DET: Fister, Valverde discuss win over Rangers

DETROIT -- After Tuesday night's thrilling win, Victor Martinez told newcomers Doug Fister and David Pauley, "Welcome to the fun."

It didn't take long for more fun to arrive. Fister was solid in his Tigers debut, giving up three runs in seven innings, and Detroit held on for a 5-4 win over Texas at Comerica Park.

The win moved the Tigers to a season-high eight games over .500 and, coupled with the Indians' loss in Boston, gave them a season-high four-game lead in the American League Central.

"This is contagious," Fister said. "The way the guys handle themselves, the way the guys come to the ballpark early, get work done, that's the kind of situation I love being a part of."

Fister was excited for his debut since coming to the Tigers in Saturday's trade with the Mariners, but he was able to calm his nerves and hold off one of the top offenses in baseball -- and one that had past success against him. Fister had owned a 4.78 career ERA against Texas.

"I really liked his demeanor," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "The way he went after the hitters, stayed away from the middle of the plate for the most part. I really liked his presence on the mound, his demeanor. He did a real fine job for us. I'm tickled for him to get a win. I'm really happy for him and all the guys were."

It was Fister's first win since May 30, spanning 10 starts and seven losses. Jose Valverde, who remained perfect with his 30th save of the season, gave Fister the game ball afterward.

Fister struggled to pick up wins all season due to the lowest run support of any Major League starter. Despite that, Fister never lost focus and put up a respectable 3.33 ERA.

"It's not so much weighing on me at all," Fister said. "The focus is one pitch at a time, one game at a time. You can't control other than what you do and how you prepare and how you take your mentality to the mound."

An RBI single by Ryan Raburn opened the scoring in the second inning, and he came home one batter later when Alex Avila singled.

The Tigers extended the lead when Miguel Cabrera drove in Austin Jackson on a double in the third inning, giving Fister something he wasn't used to: a lead.

But Detroit lost a three-run lead for the second time in as many days. Although Fister could gameplan for a team he was used to, the Rangers were also familiar with him.

"It sometimes makes it tougher and sometimes makes it a little easier knowing what they're going to do, but they also know me," Fister said. "I just have to take the mindset that I'm going to attack them with my best stuff. If they get a hit, I tip my cap, if not, it's part of the game."

The biggest thing Fister had going for him was location. He threw 73 of his 99 pitches for strikes, including all 10 of his changeups and all five of his curveballs.

"Control is always the focus of my game," Fister said. "Using the defense, getting quick outs is the mentality that I take out there, trying to get everybody involved."

Unfortunately for Fister, that defense let him down a couple of times.

A fielding error by Wilson Betemit with two outs in the fourth scored a run for Texas. The Rangers tied the game in the fifth when the Tigers couldn't finish a double play, as shortstop Jhonny Peralta's throw to first was wild.

But it didn't affect Fister, something his new catcher noticed.

"Nothing really ever bothers him," Avila said. "He's just kind of focused on the hitter and doing what he has to do. When he was pitching in Seattle, he never let the lack of run support or anything affect him. He just went out there and pitched and did his job. Whatever happened, happened. To have a [3.29] ERA in the American League is pretty good."

Fister finished without recording any walks or strikeouts in seven innings. The only other pitcher to do that in at least seven innings this year was the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse on June 22. The last Tigers pitcher to do it was Justin Verlander on May 17, 2006.

Avila's solo home run in the bottom of the sixth gave the Tigers the lead and put Fister in line for the win. It was the third time this year Avila had a home run and a sacrifice bunt in the same game. Only the Angels' Bobby Abreu (four times) has done it more often.

"I just made a bad pitch," said Rangers starter Matt Harrison. "It's frustrating to do that after we had tied it."

Ryan Raburn, who went 3-for-4 on the day, added an insurance home run in the bottom of the eighth. That proved to be vital, as Valverde gave up a solo home run before picking up his 30th straight save to begin the season.

Then, Valverde gave Fister the game ball, officially welcoming him to the family as the Tigers push toward the playoffs.

"He gave me a big ol' hug and gave me that smile and said, 'Here it is,'" Fister said. "That's the kind of guys we have here. It's a great park to be a part of."

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