They had Brennan Boesch put a solid swing on a breaking ball for an RBI single in the fourth inning, then reach base swinging and missing at a breaking ball in the dirt in the ninth.
It was a midsummer game in Texas. It was interesting, but it wasn't pretty.
"There's some bright signs, but just an ugly game," manager Jim Leyland said. "We just pitched really bad. We just didn't play good."
The one constant is how difficult it is for the Tigers to overcome a rough start. Though two add-on runs off Duane Below in the fifth and sixth innings and a defensive mess of an eighth frame were the deciding tallies, the nine runs off Fister provided the obstacle the Tigers couldn't overcome.
There's no reason to believe Fister was injured, as he was during his previously roughest outing a month ago. He lasted 96 pitches, albeit over just 4 1/3 innings, and showed no sign of discomfort, and he said he had none afterwards. Even though he wasn't hurt, he was hit, to the point where it was obvious he was off.
"He just wasn't real sharp," Leyland said. "That pretty much sums up his outing."
The three home runs Wednesday nearly matched his total from his other eight outings, not to mention the 11 outings he made last season after coming over from Seattle. The nine runs he allowed set a new high for his Major League career, not just in Detroit.
"He was doing the same things that he always does," Ian Kinsler said. "He was throwing sinkers and cutters and working the strike zone. I think we were able to work him a little bit more, as far as laying off some pitches that maybe we normally don't."
More important than the numbers, though, was the feel of the game. Fister threw nearly 70 percent strikes and got ahead of hitters, but he struggled to get the outs he needed. He didn't have a lot of help, but he didn't recover well, either.
"I threw a lot of strikes. I did a poor job of commanding the zone," Fister said. "I threw strikes, but I didn't throw them where I needed to at the right times. They obviously made me pay for that and it's going to be a focus in the bullpen [session between starts]."
He needed those strikes down. Three that didn't get there ended up going out.
One three-batter stretch of the second inning summed up his night. Fister put up consecutive two-strike counts against Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy. Young got a curveball up and lined it into center field to put two runners on with nobody out. Cruz hit a ground ball to third that Miguel Cabrera tried to throw on the run and fired wide of Prince Fielder at first, allowing Adrian Beltre to score and setting the tone for the Tigers' sloppy defensive game.
"We didn't pitch very well, and we gave them too many outs," Leyland said. "You can't give a good team like that that many outs, and that's what we did."
Murphy provided the crushing blow on his 0-2 pitch, sending a three-run shot to right field for the first of his two homers and four hits on the night.
"I was working away from him a little bit, tried to get in on him a little bit and left it over the plate," Fister said. "He's a good hitter and he made me pay for my mistake."
With that, the Rangers had built a 4-0 lead and were seemingly on their way to an easy win. The Tigers pummeled former free-agent target Roy Oswalt for 13 hits over six innings, yet he left with a 10-5 lead thanks to two timely double plays and some big outs at the plate. Once Texas turned to highly touted pitching prospect Martin Perez for the eighth, however, Detroit mounted its comeback with RBI singles from Austin Jackson, Delmon Young and Alex Avila, plus a throwing error from second baseman Kinsler that left Fielder colliding with Perez at first base.
Nonetheless, Oswalt became the second pitcher in the last 30 years to give up 13 hits and earn a win for the Rangers, according to research on baseball-reference.com. The Tigers, meanwhile, put up 17 hits and lost for just the second time since 1998, and the first time ever in Texas.
Even here, this was something.
"I think what you do is turn the page," Leyland said. "This is an ugly one. You turn the page and go to the next town."