Washington Nationals' right-hander Doug Fister gave up multiple home runs in just two of his first eighteen starts this season. Fister, who was acquired from Detroit this winter in a 3-for-1 trade that sent Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray to the Tigers, surrendered three home runs in his first outing for the Nats against the Oakland A's on May 9th in the O.co Coliseum and two in a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium on June 15th.
Fister gave up home runs in six of the other sixteen starts between his season debut and his August 17th start at home gainst the Pittsburgh Pirates, but only one in each outing and only one of the six with runners on.
In his last two starts, however, the 6'8'' starter has allowed four home runs total, two in each outing, with runners on base for two of the four blasts.
Last night in Citizens Bank Park, Fister gave up a solo home run by Jimmy Rollins in the bottom of the first and a two-run blast by Grady Sizemore in the sixth that put the Philadelphia Phillies ahead for good in their series-sweeping 8-4 win over the NL East's first-place Nats.
So is there any trend that Nationals' skipper Matt Williams has spotted? Is Fister leaving the ball up more often? The ten hits he allowed last night were a season-high as well.
Williams said, "No."
"Tonight it was a curveball," he said of the 0-2 bender Fister threw to Sizemore in the sixth, after Rollins hit a 1-0 fastball up in the zone out to right on a high fly that kept soaring, much to the Nats' starter's amazement.
"He had [Sizemore] down two strikes and just hung a curveball," Williams continued. "So, I don't think there is any common theme to it. Generally he's thrown the sinker and the changeup and balls are on the ground. But in the last couple he's given up some homers, but I don't think there's any theme there, other than tonight was just a mistake pitch."
After the Rollins' home run and an error on a line drive to center by Ryan Howard tied the game up at 2-2 after one inning last night, Fister settled in with four scoreless innings of work before the Phillies struck again in the sixth.
Sizemore's homer ended Fister's outing after 100 pitches.
"With the exception of the last pitch he threw for a homer, pretty good," Williams said in assessing Fister's start.
"Early on they got him for a couple of base hits in front of the outfielders. Then he settled in nicely and pitched well. We were trying to get him through [the sixth] inning to give him a chance to finish it, but it didn't happen that way. He gave up the homer and then hit [Ben] Revere and we had to go get him."
So were the Phillies just lucky, with hits falling in?
"It's got nothing to do with luck," Williams said. "They've got some guys that can hit. They put some good swings on him early, but he settled in fine and we were able to take the lead and he was going through their lineup pretty well until the last one."
Fister almost worked his way out of trouble in the sixth.
Marlon Byrd singled and scored on a double by Domonic Brown in the first two at bats in the sixth, but the Phillies' outfielder broke for third base on a grounder to short by Wil Nieves in the next at bat and was thrown out at third.
Philly third baseman Cody Asche sent a fly to left for the second out of the frame, but Sizemore followed with the pinch hit home run and Fister hit Ben Revere with his 100th pitch.
"We kind of caught a break there with getting the guy at third base on the grounder," Williams explained, "and then he got a guy on first and hung a curveball. That's the game. Sometimes they hit a homer, sometimes they ground it out. Tonight they got the homer."
Coincidentally, Fister's less-than-stellar outings in his last two starts have followed the surgical procedure the 30-year-old starter underwent to remove skin cancer from his neck.
Williams said he didn't think there was any connection.
"No. I wouldn't think so. It was an out-patient-type thing. I don't think there is any effect there at all. He missed no time. Didn't miss any work. In fact, he worked out that day before he went and had the procedure. I don't think there's anything to it.
On the year, the veteran in his sixth major league season is now (12-5) with a 2.55 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 16 walks (1.10 BB/9) and 15 home runs (1.04 HR/9) allowed and 80 Ks (5.52 K/9) collected in 20 starts and 130 ⅓ IP.