"Don't tell anybody," Fister said. "Growing up ... I was a Giants fan."
From his home in nearby Merced, Calif., Fister was a teenage devotee of Will Clark and his teammates, young enough to dream about pitching in the relatively new AT&T Park. Now Fister is about to realize that fantasy, starting Game 2 for the Tigers on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 p.m. first pitch) with his team trailing the best-of-seven series, 1-0.
"It's definitely special, something that most people don't get the chance to do," said Fister, who will oppose Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. "This was the first place for me when it came to baseball, growing up as a Giants fan all the way to my first workout as an amateur trying to get drafted. This is a very special place to me."
Yet to make the big leagues, Fister had to switch allegiances -- first to the Mariners and then to the Tigers, where he and Max Scherzer have developed into reliable rotation complements to ace Justin Verlander. So with a gray road uniform on his back, Fister will only be able to revel so long before attempting to achieve what Verlander could not in Game 1, and silence the Giants in his World Series debut.
"It's always been a dream and a goal for me, and now it's happening," Fister said of pitching in San Francisco in particular. "It's definitely special being able to come into the ballpark, and playing in a World Series is something that obviously is a moment that will never be forgotten. It holds a little bit more special place in my heart, I would say, but it doesn't change what we do on the field."
Tale of the Tape: Game 2
|2012 regular season|
|Overall: 26 GS, 10-10, 3.45 ERA, 37 BB, 137 K||Overall: 32 GS, 16-11, 3.37 ERA, 49 BB, 191 K|
|Key stat: Despite earning two no-decisions, Fister has pitched to a 1.35 ERA this postseason. The Tigers have won both of his starts.||Key stat: Bumgarner will take the mound on 11 days' rest after allowing six runs to the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS.|
|At AT&T Park|
| 2012: 15 GS, 10-3, 2.38 ERA
Career: 41 GS, 19-12, 3.08 ERA
|Against this opponent|
Career: 1 GS, 0-0, 1.23 ERA
|Loves to face: Marco Scutaro: 1-for-11, 1 K
Hates to face: N/A
|Loves to face: Alex Avila: 0-for-3, 2 K
Hates to face: Prince Fielder: 3-for-7, 1 RBI
|Why he'll win: Fister owns a 1.98 career ERA against the National League.||Why he'll win: Bumgarner has a 10-3 record and 2.38 ERA in 15 home starts this season.|
|Pitcher beware: Though it could also work in his favor, Fister has neither faced the Giants nor pitched in AT&T Park.||Pitcher beware: Bumgarner is pitching on 11 days' rest. This season, he went 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts that came after six or more days of rest.|
|Bottom line: The Tigers are comfortable with Fister on the mound, especially considering he's allowed only two runs on 12 hits over the 13 1/3 innings he's pitched this postseason.||Bottom line: Starting Bumgarner in Game 2 was far from a sure thing for the Giants, but the lefty pitched eight shutout innings in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series.|
What Fister must do is simply pitch like he did in the regular season, overcoming multiple injuries to go 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA and nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks. Healthy down the stretch, Fister found one of his best grooves in September, going 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA. Then he carried that over into the first two rounds of the playoffs, holding the A's to two runs in seven innings of his American League Division Series start and blanking the Yankees over 6 1/3 innings in the AL Championship Series.
Over his last four playoff starts dating back to last season, Fister is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA, allowing two or fewer runs in each of them.
It is not a secret how he has done it. Hardly overpowering, the 6-foot-8 Fister understands his strengths and pitches to them. So he will not change his style in the World Series, despite the fact that the Giants boast a vastly different offense than the power-reliant Yankees. The three home runs the Giants hit in Game 1 were out-of-character for a team that bashed just 31 at AT&T Park all season.
"Yes, we're aware of what the other team does and their tendencies, but at the same time we don't want to work away from our strengths," Fister said. "We want to go at people with our best stuff, whether a pitcher or a hitter, and not waver from it. As soon as you start wavering from that, you start changing your game plan and kind of get off kilter. We really just want to stay within ourselves, play the same game that we've played all year and go take it to them."
Fister will even boast an added advantage against the Giants, who have never seen him in regular-season play. Of the 13 hitters on San Francisco's playoff roster, only Marco Scutaro (1-for-11) has faced him in the past. And because Fister relies so heavily on deception, he may be able to exploit that more than another pitcher -- say, a Bumgarner, for example.
"I'm not really focused on anything about me right now," said Bumgarner, who, unlike Fister, has struggled in his starts leading up to the World Series. "I just want to go out there and try to keep us in the game and do a good job. I haven't done that yet this postseason."
If the Game 1 atmosphere at AT&T Park was any indication, Bumgarner should enjoy one significant advantage over Fister with the home crowd at his back. But speckled among the thousands in orange and black will be more than a few Fister supporters, making the two-hour drive from Merced to support their hometown pitcher.
"I've had a lot of requests from family and friends back home," Fister said, "but that's what makes this game so great, being able to come back here and pitch in front of them. Whether they get to come to the games or are watching on TV, I know they'll be watching and their support is always there."