SEATTLE -- Even in his wildest dreams, rookie right-hander Doug Fister could never have come up with a performance quite like the debut start he made on Tuesday night. One hit over six scoreless innings? Yeah, right.
But when the newest member of the Mariners rotation walked off the mound at the end of the sixth inning, receiving a standing ovation from most of the 19,385 fans at Safeco Field, his memorable night against the White Sox was history. Fister became the first pitcher in franchise history to throw at least six shutout innings and allow just one hit in his first career start. The only hit he allowed was an infield single by Jim Thome in the first inning. After Fister threw his 94th pitch of the game, striking out Paul Konerko to end the sixth inning, manager Don Wakamatsu turned the game over to the Mariners' bullpen, which protected a one-run lead until the ninth inning. But for just the third time in 30 save chances this season, closer David Aardsma let one get away. He surrendered a walk, single and home run, saddling Seattle with a tough 3-1 loss. "No loss is easy, but obviously when you give it up in the ninth, it stings a little more," Wakamatsu said. "It hurts quite a bit." The loss dropped the Mariners back to nine games behind the Angels in the AL West and 5 1/2 behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card chase. Aardsma has been practically perfect at protecting leads. "This guy has been the heart and soul of our ballclub," Wakamatsu said. "He's been consistent, that's why he's been at the top of our league in ERA. Sometimes you're going to have some bad ones, but this guy been our rock and done a tremendous job for us." The same things were being said about Fister. "We couldn't have asked for any more," said Wakamatsu. "He did just a tremendous job." The cool-as-a-cucumber rookie seemed to take it all in stride before, during and after the game. "I tried to keep it the same, just like it was in Tacoma," he said, referring to Triple-A, when asked how he spent his day preparing for the start. "I went about my business the way I have been taught." It was a methodical performance that ended with back-to-back strikeouts of Thome and Konerko. The radar gun readings were not eye-catching, but all of his pitches had good movement. "You look up at the radar gun and you don't see the mid-90s," Wakamatsu said. "But what you do see is the angle to his pitches. You see a little bit of life as the ball goes through the zone. That's a good-hitting club over there. He kept them off-balance and jammed some guys. His ability to throw offspeed stuff adds a couple of miles per hour to his fastball. "One hit in six innings against this club. You couldn't have scripted it any better." Fister, who struck out 79 batters and walked just 11 while pitching for Tacoma, walked as many as he struck out. "I was trying too hard to make the perfect pitch, instead of doing what I have been doing," he said of the four free passes. "I have to re-evaluate what I was doing and go from there." Fister seemed more bummed that the Mariners lost an important game in their pursuit of being in a pennant race than himself not getting the victory. "It was unfortunate that it didn't bounce our way tonight, but we'll come back tomorrow," he said. Aardsma had a double-whammy kind of inning. "I feel bad for [Fister] and I feel bad for the team," he said, "but I am going to keep going out there doing my job. It has worked so far." As for Fister: "He will have a lot more opportunities to get wins," Aardsma said. "The way he threw tonight he's going to have plenty of wins in this game. But I wish I had gotten the win for him and the team." Winning pitcher John Danks agreed. "You know what, he did a great job," the lefty said. "He's a pretty good pitcher, for sure. He has a pretty good idea what he's doing. He went out there and threw strikes and that's really all you can ask for." Well, that and a little more run support. The Mariners gave Fister his first lead as a big leaguer in the fourth inning when third baseman Adrian Beltre smacked a ground-rule double to right-center with one out and scored on a broken-bat single into right field by first baseman Russell Branyan. But that was it as Danks and closer Bobby Jenks combined to keep Seattle's offense to that one run. Beltre had two hits to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He's batting .433 during the hot streak and .371 since being activated from the disabled list.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.