NEW YORK — Doug Fister’s season began late and it required a change of location to really get going.
After spending the first month and a half as a free agent and the next month in the Pacific Coast League, Fister is pitching in big games and looking like the dependable ground ball pitcher from his days with the Detroit Tigers.
And his resurgence is perfectly timed as the Boston Red Sox try to inch closer to a division title.
Fister produced another solid start when he kept the ball on the ground through most of his seven innings as the Red Sox hit three homers in a 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night.
The veteran right-hander spent last season with the Houston Astros but went unsigned in the offseason. He signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels on May 20 but opted out June 21.
Two days later, the Red Sox signed him and Fister (4-7) owned a 6.23 ERA after laboring through 4 1/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays July 20. Since then, he is 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA in his last seven outings since returning to the rotation July 31.
“I’ve definitely been blessed,” Fister said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had throughout my career. To start this season late, to kind of go from where I was to where I am it’s an honor for me to be a part of this club.”
Fister allowed two of his four hits and fell behind 1-0 within his first 11 pitches on doubles by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge. He allowed a third hit on a single to Jacoby Ellsbury and held the next 16 batters hitless until Chase Headley’s bunt single to the third base side of the mound.
“He pitches with such conviction,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “You see it in his body language, you see it in his attack plan. He’s got a clear understanding at what he’s trying to do on the mound and that’s a testament to the work he puts in, the preparation he goes through.”
The right-hander completed seven innings in a third straight start for the first time since July 27-Aug. 17, 2014. He worked quickly by getting 18 first-pitch strikes and kept his defense active with 11 ground ball outs.
Among those fielders was second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who returned from missing three weeks with left knee inflammation. Pedroia fielded five of those grounders in seven innings, including a diving stop on Ellsbury in the fifth.
“He’s been great,” Pedroia said. “He’s been pounding the zone. His ball’s sinking a lot, getting a lot of ground balls, keeping us on our toes. So, he pitched great.
Addison Reed pitched a scoreless eighth and Craig Kimbrel quickly posted his 32nd save in 36 chances as the Red Sox beat the Yankees for the fifth time in the last seven meetings.
Eduardo Nunez hit a two-run homer off Sonny Gray (8-9) after annoying CC Sabathia with a bunt Thursday as the Red Sox tied a season high by going 5 1/2 games up on the Yankees for the third time.
Andrew Benintendi hit his fifth homer of the season at Yankee Stadium in the fifth and Hanley Ramirez opened the seventh with his 22nd homer.
Being unable to hit Fister sent the Yankees to their fifth loss on a season-high 10-game homestand that ends Sunday with Chris Sale pitching for the Red Sox.
“I think it’s the late movement he has,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Doug Fister really pitches. He doesn’t rely on power and he just kept it off the barrel.”
Gray allowed four runs and five hits in seven innings while getting seven strikeouts. He tied a career worst by allowing three homers for the fourth time in his career and each home run occurred against his fastball to different locations of Yankee Stadium.
“It’s one of those you kind of scratch your head when you look at the line — seven innings, nine strikeouts, one walk, five hits,” Girardi said. “Problem is today they hit three home runs and that’s what killed him.”
NOTES: Both teams began their first round of September callups after rosters were expanded. The Red Sox recalled C Blake Swihart, 1B Sam Travis, RHPs Austin Maddox and Roenis Elias. The Yankees recalled RHPs Ben Heller and Bryan Mitchell along with LHP Jordan Montgomery. ... Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he might go with a six-man rotation after Thursday’s day off. ... Boston LHP David Price (left elbow inflammation) threw a 29-pitch bullpen session without any difficulties. Manager John Farrell described it as “impressive and powerful” and said Price will throw again Sunday or Monday. ... Yankees DH Matt Holliday was activated off the disabled list after missing 25 games with a back injury.