Is Doug Fister The Pitching Hero The Red Sox Need?

Is Doug Fister The Pitching Hero The Red Sox Need?

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Photo courtesy of Matt West, Boston Herald

Things aren’t too great right now for the Boston Red Sox. They’re 4-8 in their last 12 games, and have seen their lead in the AL East shrink to just 2.5 games over the New York Yankees entering play Tuesday night.

Boston just came off a four game-set against the Yankees in the Bronx, dropping three of four—including the final two. Even with a split, they still would’ve walked out of New York with a seemingly comfortable 5.5 game lead in the division with an underwhelming schedule the rest of the month. They had a golden opportunity to do just that with Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale pitching to wrap up the series, but it wasn’t happening.

To add insult to injury, Rick Porcello got shelled at home Monday night for his Major-League leading 16th loss, a 10-4 pounding at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays (5 1/3 IP, 10 H, 7 ER), while the Yankees went on to win their game. Porcello gave up three homers on the night and is up to 35 allowed this season, tied for the most in baseball with Ariel Miranda of the Seattle Mariners.

Not the way the Red Sox were looking to start a three-game set at Fenway against the last place Blue Jays—especially with the way Porcello pitched against them less than a week ago (6 2/3 IP, 1 ER on August 30).

But back to the Yankees series. The one Red Sox pitcher who did manage to record a win in four games? Doug Fister on September 1.

Through seven innings, Fister held the Yankees in check to just five hits and one run in Boston’s 4-1 win. It was Fister’s third straight quality start, and fifth out of six attempts dating back to July 31.

In those six starts, Fister’s 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA (41 1/3 IP, 14 ER). He’s been especially good in his last three, going 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA (23 IP, 4 ER). Additionally, the four runs he’s allowed the last three times out have all come in the first inning, so he’s done a great job at settling into his outing and finding a groove.

Fister takes the mound next Wednesday night against the Blue Jays. He’s given the Red Sox a boost the last five weeks, and they need him now more than ever to keep giving the team a chance every fifth day.

Why?

Sale’s struggled mightily lately causing some to question if he’s wearing down, Porcello’s been up-and-down/inconsistent all year, Eduardo Rodriguez is winless since returning from the DL on July 17, and who knows about David Price and if he’ll be back. These problems in Boston’s rotation make Fister’s role that much more important down the stretch.

The playoff track record is another thing. Fister’s pitched in October before and has faired well. In parts of four postseasons, he’s 4-2 with a 2.60 ERA (9 games, 8 starts). Since 2012, he’s recorded a 1.64 ERA in 38 1/3 playoff innings.

Considering the fact that no current Red Sox starter has a postseason win under their belt (not including Price’s two wins in relief), Fister’s experience in October could end up being huge for Boston—if they do in fact make it to a first-round playoff series. Gotta get there first, and right now, anything’s possible.

At this point, after Sale, Pomeranz, and Porcello, Fister’s looking like the best option for a fourth-game starter in a playoff series if Price isn’t able to get back. If Rodriguez really lights it up this month, he’s another contender. But keep in mind—he has zero playoff experience. Zero. Same with Sale, but these are two completely different pitchers.

The first three starters in a playoff rotation for Boston are a given right now, on paper at least it seems. It’s the fourth spot that’s up for contention. Right now, Fister deserves it. Why wouldn’t he? He’s a proven nine-year veteran in MLB, has put together several solid regular seasons, has been resurgent lately, and of course—there’s that postseason experience.

He’s been pitching hungry.

Anyway, it’s nice that Fister’s providing the Red Sox with some flexibility and insurance as the beginning of this crucial month gets underway. Who knew he’d be this important for the team when they first picked him up off waivers on June 23? We’ll see just how important he proves to be for Boston the rest of the regular season and into October—if fate has it as such.

Overall this season for the Red Sox, Fister’s 4-7 with a 4.19 ERA (13 games, 10 starts).