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OAK@DET Gm2: Fister talks about pitching Game 2

DETROIT -- In a lot of ways, Doug Fister and Tommy Milone are mirror images of one another.

Neither has a blazing fastball. Neither throws it more than half the time most games. Instead, they're a reminder that pitching is still about movement, location and changing speeds.

Fister has one of the best curveballs in baseball. Milone's changeup is his best pitch, but he mixed it with a terrific cutter and a curveball on his way to winning 13 games and pitching 190 innings.

In a best-of-five series, everything is sped up. After losing Game 1, the Oakland Athletics would be in a deep hole if they drop Game 2.

Even if they're going back home for the final three games of this American League Division Series, it would be a tall order to defeat the Detroit Tigers three times in a row.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of heat on the Tigers. If they win Game 2, they're up 2-0 and in a great position. But if they drop it, they will have allowed the A's to do just what they hoped to do in splitting the first two games on the road.

Both managers are handing the ball to pitchers who've polished their games dramatically the last two seasons. Both have come to understand the art of pitching and the things that will give them a chance to be successful.

Fister upgraded the Tigers' rotation significantly when he was acquired from the Mariners on Aug. 17, 2011. He was 8-1 in 10 starts and helped the Tigers win the American League Central. He began this season as one of the reasons the Tigers were optimistic about their chances of repeating.

In a frustrating season, he has pitched well when he has been healthy. But two trips to the disabled list limited Fister to 26 starts.

But he's pitching his best at the right time. In his last seven starts, he's 5-2 with a 2.86 ERA. He faced the A's just once this season, on the road on May 12, when he allowed one run in six innings.

The A's are a dramatically different team since then, but if Fister is getting his offspeed pitch in the strike zone, he's good enough to shut anyone down. For an aggressive team like the A's, he could be an especially challenging matchup.

Milone is getting the ball from A's manager Bob Melvin, even though he was 6-6 with a 4.83 ERA on the road this season and 7-4 with a 2.74 ERA in Oakland.

"We feel comfortable wherever he pitches," Melvin said. "I think this ballpark is a lot like ours. It's fairly big, pretty deep to center field. But based on some of the injuries, we just felt like he's the right guy, period."

The A's consider this part of the growing process of a young pitcher. His workload has been managed carefully. He threw the 190 innings over 31 starts.

He faced the Tigers twice in 2012, and the A's won both games. Milone went seven innings for a victory on May 11 in Oakland. He gave up three earned runs in 4 2/3 frames in Detroit on Sept. 20.

The A's won the game after Milone had been knocked out. In his last seven starts, Milone went longer than six innings just once as Melvin monitored his workload. That'll probably be the case in Game 2, as well.

"I'm pretty sure that my heart's going to be going," Milone said. "But just try to keep your composure, keep your poise. Go out there, kind of slow the game down."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland will use Gerald Laird at catcher. Fister's ERA was almost a full run better with Laid behind the plate.

He'll also start 21-year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia, who made his Major League debut on Aug. 31 and batted .319 and hustled his way onto the roster down the stretch. He helped fill one of the holes in Detroit's lineup.

Everything begins with Fister. The Tigers got more than they expected last season after acquiring him from the Mariners, but this season has been one filled with frustration.

All that frustration will be forgotten if he pitches the Tigers to within a victory of an appearance in the AL Championship Series.

"There's been some ups and downs and trying to continually fine-tune and take the steps in the right direction that I need to," Fister said. "Unfortunately this year I've had some injuries that have kept me out periodically."

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