At the start, it looked like it might be another one of those games where the Washington Nationals fall behind early and have to fight their way back. B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back one-out singles in the top of the first to put runners on the corners in front of Atlanta Braves' catcher Evan Gattis, but Nats' starter Doug Fister got a line drive to second from Gattis that Danny Espinosa caught and a grounder to second to second that Espinosa played, throwing to second base for an inning-ending force.
Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked after the game about Fister's unshakeable demeanor and quick pace and how he maintains both even under adverse circumstances.
"It's his rhythm," Williams said. "He wants to stay in rhythm. So he works fast anyway and just because somebody gets on he doesn't want to change that."
He didn't change his game plan either, even after the Braves' hitters came out swinging aggressively and early in the count. Fister continued to pound the zone and when he was done for the night, after eight scoreless innings, he'd given up just five hits and a walk, striking out three and inducing groundouts from 12 of the 31 batters he faced.
With the starter rolling, Williams sent him back out for the eighth even though Fister was up to 101 pitches after a 14-pitch seventh in which the 6'8'' right-hander pitched around a leadoff single.
"Pushed his pitch count a little bit," the Nats' skipper told reporters.
"But he felt great and pitched really well. Controlled the zone all night."
When Fister was done, he was up to 117 pitches, 78 of them strikes.
He moved Jose Lobaton into scoring possession twice as well, helping himself with the bat by bunting his catcher over in the third and seventh innings before Anthony Rendon drove Lobaton in with two-out hits in each instance.
It was his work on the mound that impressed his manager though. What stood out about the start for Williams?
"Just that he controlled the strike zone," he said. "All of his pitches for strikes. Working ahead in the count. All of those things that pitchers do when they go deep into a game. He did that tonight. Really stepped up for the bullpen too."
"He's quick to the plate," Williams said. "Holds runners effectively, all of those things that you hope your pitchers do, but he just continues to throw it in the strike zone and change speeds."
Fister led the Nationals, and they followed.
A night after Williams dismissed the idea that the Braves had the Nats' number or were in their heads, in spite of having won seven of eight games this season and 20 of 27 overall since the start of the 2013 campaign, he watched a great pitching performance in which Fister's pace kept the defense in the game, while the hitters came through when they needed to.
"I think that tonight is an example of execution," Williams said. "Had a guy out on second base three times tonight, got three hits. Doug getting the bunts down. Played good defense. I don't know if that's a perfect game, but we were able to execute and that's the way it's got to be every day. The team that does that the best has probably got the best chance to win regardless of whether it's the Braves or anybody else."
• We talked about Fister's outing, the Nationals messing with the narrative and Anthony Rendon on the latest edition of Nats Nightly: