SEATTLE -- Doug Fister had to move out of town 1 1/2 years ago, but he's still making himself at home at Safeco Field. Now, though, he doesn't have to worry about how to pitch to Miguel Cabrera.
"He's such a special guy, that he can do things most people can't," Fister said after Cabrera's two-run home run put the Tigers up for good in Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Mariners.
There are enough hitters in this league who can pick up their starting pitchers with a home run to put them back in front after giving up the lead. Far fewer can do it on a pitch well off the plate, hitting it to near-straightaway center field on a swing that seemed effortless.
"I try to always do my best, man," Cabrera said. "I never take something for granted. I always try to fight out there to get hits to help my team to win games. That's why I always like to battle and I always like to wait for a mistake."
That wasn't exactly a mistake pitch from Aaron Harang, who had a 2-2 count with two outs and a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning.
"We went back and looked at it," Harang said afterward, "and it was 4 or 5 inches off the plate. It should have been a ball. So it proves why he's as good as he is."
It's a good pitch for most hitters. It's a mistake pitch for Cabrera.
"[Justin] Verlander told me it was a good pitch," Cabrera explained, "but I tell him I like that pitch, because it's down and away. If it's down and inside, that's a good pitch for me, but down and away, that's where I like it to be. I can extend my arms. I've got more extension to the ball right there."
The Tigers pretty much beat Harang on two-strike counts, from Austin Jackson working out of an 0-2 hole for a leadoff triple to Cabrera's first-inning RBI single on an 0-2 offering to the Cabrera homer. They added on with two-strike damage as well, including Jackson working out of an 0-2 hole for the first of back-to-back bases-loaded walks in the eighth.
None of those, however, will haunt Harang like Cabrera's second home run of the year. Cabrera was just 2-for-15 lifetime off him going into the game. Cabrera got him for two hits and three RBIs in three at-bats Tuesday.
"It's one of those things," Harang said. "Great hitter. He did a good job and he ended up basically single-handedly beating us."
Once Cabrera gave Fister his lead back, however, it was up to Fister to hold it. The way he recovered from three consecutive fourth-inning hits, retiring nine consecutive batters, he didn't give the M's much of a chance.
By the time Detroit's bullpen came into play, the insurance runs created more room for mistakes for Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit, who had none on their way to perfect eighth and ninth innings.
"That's the kind of team that we are," Fister said. "Those guys, as soon as I gave up a couple runs, they're right back at it and give us the lead again. Picking one another up, I think that's the biggest thing that we've done from the start and I think that's a big focus for us."
By doing so, they won their third game in a row on a nine-game, 10-day West Coast trip, and earned a valuable series-opening victory heading into a Wednesday night matchup with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
Fister, meanwhile, continued to put his Spring Training struggles out of mind. The one Tigers starter who seemed hittable coming out of camp moved to 3-0 on the season with his second consecutive dominant outing.
Five days after Fister tossed eight innings of one-run ball to beat Toronto, and a year after he pitched seven shutout innings here in a no-decision in his return, Fister allowed two runs on seven hits over his seven innings with a walk and five strikeouts. The lanky right-hander, traded to Detroit at the 2011 Trade Deadline, has tossed 14 innings with two runs on eight hits at Safeco Field in a Detroit uniform.
The latest gem, too, came on the same night that Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez -- the pitcher most closely tied to the Tigers going into that 2011 deadline -- walked seven batters in less than two innings.
The entire trade scenario, and the idea of pitching well to prove a point to Seattle, appears to be a moot point for Fister. He doesn't pitch well to beat the Mariners, he insists. He just wants to win.
"I don't look at it at all," Fister said. "I look at it as I have a job to do, no matter what team it is. That's the focus. I'm a Tiger and that's through and through right now. I don't look at how things have turned out for either side. I feel honored to be a part of this club. We've got some great teammates and that's my main, my only focus."
On Tuesday, he had at least one teammate with another glimpse of greatness.