Doug Fister and Josh Beckett posted near-identical ERAs last season, but while one right-hander is looking to ride a wave of momentum into 2012, the other is hoping to quickly get rid of a lingering bad taste.
Beckett's Boston Red Sox are also trying to bounce back after losing their opener as they continue their series with Fister's Detroit Tigers on Saturday in the Motor City.
Beckett had an outstanding 2011, going 13-7 with a career-best 2.89 ERA, but that figure spiked significantly in his last two starts.
Those were both losses to Baltimore during which he allowed 12 runs in 13 1-3 innings amid Boston's historic September collapse. He missed a start with an ankle injury earlier in the month.
"We need to earn (the fans') trust back," Beckett said last month. "The way we have to do that is just go about our business the way we have in previous years and win ballgames. That's going to be the best way."
Fister (11-13, 2.83 ERA) earned Detroit's respect by finishing the season in far different fashion. Acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline, Fister went 8-1 for the Tigers in the regular season - including 7-0 with a 0.65 ERA in his last eight outings.
He struggled in his first postseason start against the New York Yankees but bounced back to win the decisive Game 5 of the AL division series and Game 3 of the AL championship series versus Texas.
Including playoffs, Fister is 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA in six starts for the Tigers at Comerica Park.
He has recovered from a spring finger injury, while Beckett is expected to start despite a recent thumb problem.
Beckett walked a season-high five in Detroit last year during a 3-0 loss May 29 to Justin Verlander. He was 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA in two previous starts there.
Verlander looked every bit the AL MVP in Thursday's opener, allowing two hits in eight shutout innings. Jose Valverde blew a save after converting all 52 opportunities including playoffs last season, but Austin Jackson's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth gave the Tigers a 3-2 win.
They haven't opened 2-0 since winning their first five in 2006.
Jackson also tripled and scored in the eighth as part of a 3-for-5 day with no strikeouts after he ranked third in the majors with 181 last year.
"I get the strikeout questions a lot, but it doesn't bother me. I understand," Jackson said. "I stayed with the approach as far as just putting the ball in play, and it worked out."
Prince Fielder went 1 for 3 and drove in a run in his highly anticipated Detroit debut, while Miguel Cabrera walked three times - once intentionally - in front of him. Cabrera also made an error at third base.
Quiet while Verlander was in the game, the Red Sox got two runs in the ninth, tying it on newcomer Ryan Sweeney's two-out triple. But Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves - anointed the closer with Andrew Bailey out - couldn't push it to extra innings.
Still, Boston hopes the late rally is a sign it can avoid a dismal start similar to last season, when it was 0-6 and 2-10.
"Like I told everyone after the game, 'Come back on Saturday and play.' Actually I said Friday," David Ortiz told the Red Sox's official website. "I said Friday (an off day) but somebody tells me, 'You're going to be all by yourself tomorrow.'
"You can't look back. You have to come back with the same attitude and keep on playing."
The Associated Press News Service
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