BOSTON -- As recently as five months ago, Doug Fister found himself without a job in baseball after going unsigned over the offseason. Today, he'll be charged with keeping the Red Sox's season alive when he starts against the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan at Fenway Park.
It's been an unlikely journey for Fister, who did not secure a contract until the pitching-starved Angels signed him to a Minor League deal in May. The veteran right-hander made three starts for the club's Triple-A affiliate before using the opt-out clause in his contract to request his release. That led him to the Red Sox, who claimed him off waivers in June and saw him go 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA over 90 1/3 innings in 18 appearances (15 starts) this season.
Fister, who pitched for the Astros last year and went 12-13 with a 4.64 ERA in 32 starts before hitting the free-agent market last winter, beat out reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez for the chance to face his former team, which has built a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS to put the Red Sox on the brink of elimination.
"That journey's definitely had some ups and downs and some questionable moments, but I'm certainly blessed to be here now," Fister said Saturday. "To be put in a position that I get to be a part of this team is a tremendous and humbling experience for me. Looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and putting our best foot forward. We have been backed into a corner before -- it's nothing that we haven't been able to overcome."
Fister, 33, has forged a strong track record in the postseason, going 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in eight career playoff starts and leading his teams to a 7-1 mark. In three elimination games, Fister is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA, yielding just four runs over 18 innings. He outdueled Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in his most recent must-win start, firing seven scoreless innings for the Nationals in Game 3 of the 2014 National League Division Series at AT&T Park.
"There's nothing to lose, with everything to lose," Fister said. "You've got to go in with that mindset, and you've got to give everything, leave it all on the field tomorrow night. We can't look at it as it's an elimination day. We look at it as an opportunity to continue. There's only a handful of teams out there continuing right now, and we still have a life. You can't look at it as it's over until it is over. We still have a lot of life to give."
Manager John Farrell said Fister earned the start today based more on the way he's been pitching lately than his career numbers in the postseason.
"We do currently have options available to us, but we felt like the way he's been throwing the ball, just maybe the evaluation of the stuff, the current action to the sink cutter, a little bit more depth to the curveball," Farrell said. "I think what we have seen is that when we're able to execute pitches with some added depth to them, a breaking ball, we have been able to maybe slow down some of their right-handed hitters a little bit more. Hopefully that's what plays out tomorrow."
Fister is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in three career starts against the Astros. He faced his old team in his final start of the regular season on Sept. 29, when he allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings in a loss. Several Astros have had success against Fister in the past, including Carlos Beltran (5-for-13, home run), Josh Reddick (6-for-23) and Jose Altuve (3-for-7).
"They know me, and I know them," Fister said. 'It really just comes down to execution. This day and age with all the scouting reports and all the numbers and the video that we have, everybody knows everything about everybody. There may be a small secret here or there that you may hold, but everybody knows it. It just comes down to who has the ability to go out there and execute."
Maria Guardado is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.