DETROIT -- Doug Fister was good Thursday against the Tigers, but good doesn't cut it when you're going against Detroit ace Justin Verlander at his finest.
For Fister, that meant another tough loss, a 4-1 setback despite a full eight-inning outing for the lanky right-hander on a night when one inning proved his undoing.
After successfully walking the tightrope for several impressive frames, the Mariners starter momentarily lost his balance -- and ultimately the ballgame -- when Detroit broke through for four runs in the fifth at Comerica Park.
Verlander had no such hiccup, hurling eight innings of one-run ball while striking out 10 in a performance that left the Mariners with little choice but to acknowledge his dominance.
"It's not fun. It's not fun at all," said shortstop Brendan Ryan, who got two of Seattle's five hits. "He's throwing the kitchen sink, his fastball is 98. You're facing closer's stuff with a pitch or two extra and he's throwing all of them and all of them well. And each one off of the last one. So it's not an easy job. You just pray you don't foul off the one ball you get."
Fister matched Verlander most of the night, thanks to a gritty effort that included escaping both the third and fourth innings without a run despite a leadoff triple and double. Both times he wound up stranding the runner 90 feet from home plate with some fancy pitching.
But the Tigers pack some punch, and they finally got to Fister in the fifth with Alex Avila's second triple of the game and a two-run homer by Brennan Boesch the big blows in the four-hit rally.
Fister's 3-7 record is deceptive, given his 3.40 ERA. The Mariners have totaled just eight runs in his seven losses and he's received two runs or less of support in 10 of his 13 starts.
The Tigers were impressed by what they saw from the 6-foot-8 right-hander.
"That's the best I've seen him, by far," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "I thought the guy was terrific. He worked fast. He was really impressive. I knew he threw that cutter and everything, but I never saw his ball run in like that first one to [Ryan] Raburn that he popped up to first. That ball just dove in on him."
Catcher Miguel Olivo said Fister deserved a better fate.
"He threw the ball very well," Olivo said. "Two times with men on third and no outs, he got out of the inning quick. You have to give him credit."
Fister wound up going the full eight innings and allowed seven hits on an efficient 87 pitches, but the Mariners couldn't get him off the hook following the Tigers' four-run burst. Not with Verlander powering through eight innings with five hits and one run.
Verlander struck out 10 with just one walk before tipping his cap to 22,090 fans who rose to their feet at Comerica when he walked off after his 126th pitch.
"I've seen him too many times over the years," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "When he's at his best, he'll get stronger as the game wears on. He was better late than he was early, and he was good early, too. It was just one of those days."
The Mariners kick-started their turnaround this season with a three-game sweep of the Tigers on April 26-28, including a 10-1 win in Verlander's start. But they'll have no such sweeping success this trip into the Motor City after dropping the first game of the four-day set.
Detroit is playing good ball of late as well, with Thursday's win putting the Tigers at 22-11 since May 3 and lifting their season mark to 34-28.
Seattle is 24-16 since sweeping the Tigers in late April, but Wedge continues searching for offensive consistency for a club that has relied heavily on strong pitching to pull into second place in the American League West.
He rested Justin Smoak, Jack Cust and Chone Figgins on Thursday, but didn't unearth many offensive alternatives.
The Mariners manufactured a run in the fifth with rookie left fielder Greg Halman doing the dirty work. Halman reached on a single to center, stole second, moved to third on a fly out to right by Luis Rodriguez and then scored on a strikeout-wild pitch to Jack Wilson.
Ryan also showed a little heads-up base running right off the bat, beating out an infield single and then hustling into second when noticing that the Tigers had nobody covering the bag while Verlander held the ball.
But Verlander erased that mistake by getting Adam Kennedy to pop out before striking out Olivo, the first of four swinging Ks by the Mariners catcher on the night.
"Those were good pitches," said Olivo, the hero of the previous night's 7-4 victory in Chicago. "There's nothing you can do but come back the next day. He's one of the best in baseball, you know? When you get a hit on him, you can be proud. He pitched a great game."