Saturday Afternoon Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Washington Nationals' leadoff man Denard Span walked in the first at bat of this afternoon's game, but he was picked off by Texas Rangers' right-hander Nick Tepesch. Two pitches later, Nats' third baseman Anthony Rendon hit a 2-2 sinker out to left on a line for what would have been a two-run blast into the left field bullpen. It was a solo home run instead. Rendon's sixth homer of 2014 made it 1-0 Nationals early in second game of three with the Rangers in the nation's capital.
Nationals' manager Matt Williams singled Danny Espinosa out for praise after last night's game, telling reporters he was pleased with the second baseman's at bats in spite of the fact that he was 0 for 3 with a walk in the win.
"He's been making some adjustments, and he's working extremely hard," Williams said. "Worked long and hard the last three days to make those adjustments. So, tonight, I think, the fruits of that labor showed up a little bit."
An opposite field double on a 1-0 fastball was another good sign for Espinosa, whose one-out, two-base hit was followed by a two-run home run to right and over the out-of-town scoreboard off Nats' catcher Jose Lobaton's bat. Lobaton's second home run of the year made it 3-0 Nationals in the second.
Denard Span and Anthony Rendon hit back-to-back two-out singles off Tepesch after the Nationals went ahead 3-0 on Lobaton's blast and Jayson Werth drove them both in with a line drive to left that made it 5-0 Nats early in Nationals Park.
Adam LaRoche made it 8-0 Nationals with one swing, taking a 2-2 slider from Rangers' right-hander Scott Baker out to right and over the out-of-town scoreboard for a three-run home run. HR no. 7 of 2014 for LaRoche. HR no.3 in four innings for the Nationals today.
Doug Fister's second walk in 28 2/3 IP so far this season was issued to Alex Rios in the top of the fifth inning this afternoon, and two outs later, Rios scored the Rangers' first run on a pop to right off Rougned Odor's bat that neither Jayson Werth or Danny Espinosa could catch. 8-1 Nationals after five.
The Rangers added a run in the sixth when Shin-Soo Choo doubled to left to start the frame and scored on an RBI single to right by Mitch Moreland, who hit an 0-2 curve off the out-of-town scoreboard. 8-2 Nats after five and a half.
Anthony Rendon was 4 for 4 today after an opposite field single in the bottom of the sixth. Scott Hairston followed with a pinch hit home run to left off Scott Baker that made it 10-2 Nationals.
That's how it ended, 10-2 final in D.C.
4. Fister vs the Rangers: Doug Fister was cruising for five innings last time out against the Pirates, but things fell apart quickly in the sixth. Pittsburgh's right fielder Josh Harrison homered to start the bottom of the sixth inning of what was then a 4-1 game in the Nationals' favor and when Fister gave up two more hits to bring the tying run to the plate, Nationals' skipper Matt Williams went to the bullpen after just 83 pitches from the right-hander.
Craig Stammen came on and got a double play grounder with his first pitch.
When Fister was done for the day, the 30-year-old former Detroit Tigers' starter's ERA down a little over a half of a run from 3.93 to 3.42, to go with a 4.62 FIP after four starts and 23 2/3 IP in which he'd walked one (0.38 BB/9), struck out 17 (6.46 K/9) and held opposing hitters to a .271/.283/.448 line.
"He worked fast. Changed speeds. Threw strikes," Williams told reporters after the win in PNC Park. "Had some quick innings. The last inning he started to get the ball up a little bit so we decided to go with [Stammen]. But, he came in and did the job and one pitch got us out of the inning. Good job."
It was just the fourth start of the year for Fister, who started the season on the DL after suffering a minor right lat strain towards the end of Spring Training.
The 6'8'' right-hander made his fifth start this afternoon in the nation's capital against a Texas Rangers team he faced nine times in his career before this season while pitching for the Seattle Mariners and the Tigers in the American League. Fister was (3-4) in those starts, posting a 5.67 ERA with nine walks (1.50 BB/9) and 23 Ks (3.83 K/9) in 54 IP, over which Rangers' hitters put up a combined .307/.333/.478 line.
Today in D.C....
1st: Rangers' leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo started the game with a groundout to Nats' first baseman Adam LaRoche. Elvis Andrus grounded out to Anthony Rendon at third. Mitch Moreland got jammed with a 3-2 fastball and rolled out no.3 weakly back to Fister. 17 pitches, three groundouts. 0-0 after a half an inning.
2nd: Nats' third baseman Anthony Rendon made a stunning, sliding, Gold Glove-worth backhand play and strong throw on a sharp grounder to third off Adrian Beltre's bat for out no.1 of the second. Alex Rios K'd looking at a 1-2 changeup. Rangers' catcher Robinson Chirinos took a full-count change for a called strike three and out no.3 of a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame by Doug Fister, who was up to 30 pitches total after two scoreless innings pitched.
3rd: Leonys Martin flew to right for out no.1 of the third and Doug Fister's seventh straight out to start the game. Rougned Odor took a high full-count fastball for a called strike three. Pinch hitter Nick Martinez made it nine straight outs when he grounded out to second to end a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 third. 45 pitches total after three.
4th: Shin-Soo Choo was the 10th straight Rangers' hitter set down by Fister when he grounded out to first on a 3-2 change. Elvis Andrus connected for the first hit of the game in the next at bat, doubling to left on a 3-1 fastball. Mitch Moreland went down swinging at a 1-2 curve. K no.4 for Fister. Adrian Beltre stepped in with a runner on second and two out and popped out to short left. 20-pitch inning. 65 total for Fister after four innings.
5th: Alex Rios walked to start the Rangers' half of the fifth. Robinson Chirinos flew to right-center where Denard Span made a leaping catch at the base of the fence. Leonys Martin grounded to first, where Adam LaRoche bobbled the ball but recovered. Rougned Odor popped to short right, where Danny Espinosa tried to make an over-the-head catch, but dropped it. Rios scored on the play to make it 8-1 Nationals. A called strike three on the opposing pitcher ended the inning after 23 pitches from Fister. 88 overall after five.
6th: Shin-Soo Choo doubled to right on an 0-1 change. Elvis Andrus took a 1-2 change outside for a called strike three, but Mitch Moreland hit an RBI single to right on an 0-2 curve, driving Choo in from second to make it an 8-2 Nats' lead. Adrian Beltre's grounder to short in the next AB started an inning-ending 6-4-3. 16-pitch frame. 104 pitches total for Fister.
• Doug Fister's Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 104 P, 69 S, 8/3 GO/FO.
3. Tepesch vs Washington: Nick Tepesch, 25, was called up to make his 2014 debut with the Rangers when left-hander Martin Perez landed on the DL with an elbow injury in mid-May. Tepesch, a Kansas City, Missouri-born right-hander debuted with Texas last season after the Rangers drafted him out of the University of Missouri Columbia in the 14th Round of the 2010 Draft. In 19 games, 17 as a starter in 2013, Tepesch went (4-6) with a 4.84 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 27 walks (2.61 BB/9) and 76 Ks (7.35 K/9) in 93 IP.
Through three 2014 starts before this afternoon's in the nation's capital, Tepesch was (2-0) with a 2.95 ERA, 3.71 FIP, five walks (2.45 BB/9) and 16 Ks (7.85 K/9) in 18 1/3 IP.
In Nationals Park today, the second-year major leaguer walked the first batter he faced, putting Denard Span on, but picked the Nats' leadoff man off before surrendering what would have been a two-run home run to left on a 2-2 sinker to Anthony Rendon. Solo HR instead, and the Rangers trailed 1-0 after one.
Danny Espinosa hit a one-out opposite field double to left off Tepesch in the second on a 1-0 fastball and Jose Lobaton followed with his second home run of the season in the next at bat, taking a full-count fastball out to right and over the out-of-town scoreboard for a two-run blast that made it 3-0 Nats in the second.
Span and Rendon hit back-to-back two-out singles in front of Jayson Werth after Lobaton's blast, and Werth's line drive double to left field drove them both in to make it 5-0 Nationals after two.
Tepesch was up to 62 pitches after just two innings pitched.
• That was it for Tepesch: 2.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 62 P, 38 S, 2/1 GO/FO.
2. Five-Ball Walk: A funny thing happened on the way to Wilson Ramos' leadoff walk in the top of the sixth inning last night. Home plate umpire Scott Barry somehow lost track of the balls and it took five of them for the Nats' catcher to get a free pass from Rangers' starter Colby Lewis.
Ramos fouled off the first pitch, took two balls, fouled off another, then took the fifth pitch of the at bat for for ball two. Lewis threw a 2-2 pitch outside for ball three, but the ump, according to what Ramos told The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, insisted it was a 2-2 count. Ramos thought it was 3-2, but Barry and Rangers' catcher Chris Gimenez said, 2-2.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams, watching from the dugout, wondered what happened when Ramos took what was actually a 3-2 pitch outside on the next offering.
"You always say, 'Hey, are we right on the count?' So we all kind of looked at each other and went, 'Huh, I thought that was ball four.' But we've got a lot going on over there, we're talking a lot about different situations, so we missed that one."
Lewis missed low with the second 3-2 offering and Ramos took a five-ball walk.
Williams was asked if he would get a three-ball walk in return today?
"I don't think they're going to give that one to us. I'll ask them when I go up there tomorrow, we'll see."
Update: The Nationals did not get a free ball today.
1. The Wrap-Up: Rangers' right-hander Scott Baker took over on the mound in the Nationals' third and retired the Nationals in order to calm things down, but the Nats picked it up again in the home half of the fourth.
Doug Fister reached on a misplay on a weak fly to center when Leonys Martin and Elvis Andrus lost a pop in the sun and let it fall in for a "single." Anthony Rendon followed with his third hit in three at bats today and fifth hit in five at bats overall, singling to left on a line drive. After Rendon was forced out at second on a grounder to short by Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche took Baker deep to right on a 2-2 slider that cleared the out-of-town scoreboard for a 3-run blast that made it 8-0 Nats.
The Nationals made it 10-2 when Scott Hairston took Scott Baker deep to left in the bottom of the sixth.
Craig Stammen took over for Fister and threw two scoreless innings to get the Nationals through seven and a half with their 10-2 lead in tact.
Jerry Blevins retired the Rangers in order to end it. 10-2 final.
Nationals now 27-27