NEW YORK -- Some trades never seem to make the grade, but this one for the Tigers certainly did: Right-hander Doug Fister from the Mariners at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline for four prospects.
When the Tigers needed him the most, Fister was equal to the task on Thursday night in Game 5 of their American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium, allowing just five hits and a run in five innings on the way to a clinching 3-2 victory.
That trade, and the one two weeks later with the Twins for Delmon Young, made Detroit's season. Young hit one of his three homers in the series in Game 5 and Fister earned the victory. The Tigers are now on their way to the AL Championship Series against the Rangers beginning on Saturday in the Ballpark at Arlington.
"Well, they were nice additions to our club," said Dave Dombrowski, the team's president and general manager who executed the deals. "Our scouts did a great job with their recommendations. Of course, Doug Fister getting the win in this game here. He's done well for us since he came over. He's really made a difference. He's solidified our rotation. Delmon Young has also been great. A lot of good things have happened."
Fister has been equal to everything the Tigers have asked of him. He was 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 11 starts for Detroit after the trade. Together with Game 3 winner Justin Verlander, the duo ended the regular season a combined 14-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 16 regular-season outings from Aug. 16 on.
Fister lost the washed out and suspended Game 1 in relief of Verlander and wound up in the Game 5 start, which was originally targeted for the consensus Cy Young Award winner in the AL.
Fister's toughest moment on Thursday night came in the fourth inning when the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. Russell Martin and Brett Gardner popped up to end the threat with the Yankees doing no damage. Robinson Cano's homer with two out in the fifth was the only blemish.
"It was one of those things that everybody just played together and just picked each other up," Fister said. "If it wasn't the offense, it was the defense and everybody coming out of the bullpen. It was a tremendous team effort. I'm glad I was able to help and stay out there in that inning. It shows they have a lot of confidence in me. It makes me feel good and I'm very humble for it."
Fister was unheralded with the Mariners before the trade and only now is he beginning to get some national recognition. This is what the Tigers' scouts saw in Fister:
"They thought he could come in here and give us consistent innings, pitch well and give us some wins," Dombrowski said. "He was one of those guys who pitched well for the Mariners earlier in the year, but didn't get much run support. We did a lot of checking on his background. We thought he was a guy who'd rise to the occasion. He did that, plus. He didn't have any trouble stepping in and adjusting in a very competitive and tough situation."
Fister was 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA in 21 starts for the Mariners before the trade. His walk-to-strikeout ratio during the regular season after joining the Tigers was more than 11-to-1 (57-5).
The Tigers led the Indians by 2 1/2 games in the AL Central on the date of the trade and ultimately ran off to win their first division title since 1987 by 15 games. So the deal worked out splendidly for Fister and the Tigers. Now they're back in the ALCS for the first time in five years.
"It's a tremendous feeling," Fister said. "We're just trying to take this thing one step at a time and just soak it all in as we go. We'll get ready for Texas on the flight over there and get ready to play ball."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.