DETROIT -- One of the major reasons behind Doug Fister's dominant run of pitching down the stretch last year after his trade to the Tigers was pitching coach Jeff Jones' encouragement to have him throw more curveballs. Now that Fister looks like he's rounding back into that form, his curveball is a big reason behind his resurgence.
Fister threw almost as many curveballs (24) as sinkers (29) during Saturday night's game against the Indians, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday. More important, he threw 14 of them for strikes, including five swings and misses, according to brooksbaseball.net. It's an uptick from his season average of curveballs, which he throws about once every five pitches.
"He did what he always does. He pitches ahead, changes speed and has that good curveball," Indians manager Manny Acta said after the game. "He pretty much just manhandled us."
The curveball looked sharper than it has for most of the summer. Jones noted on Saturday that he has seen better curveballs from Fister over his last couple starts. It isn't something they've emphasized during side sessions. Rather, Jones believes the improvement has come about with time and repetition now that he has been healthy for nearly two months.
More impressive to Leyland was the fact that Fister worked through the Indians' lineup with so few pitches, reaching just two three-ball counts all night.
"You saw a masterpiece last night," Leyland said on Sunday morning. "That's about as good as you're going to see without being a dominant stuff guy. That was the art of pitching at its best."