When starter Doug Fister earned his 8th win back on July 10th in Baltimore, Maryland's Oriole Park at Camden Yards and momentarily claimed the team lead in wins, Washington's first-year skipper, Matt Williams, was asked if the 30-year-old right-hander the Nationals acquired from the Detroit Tigers this past winter, had established himself as the ace of the Nats' starting rotation?
"I think that if you look at it," Williams said diplomatically, while explaining that wins didn't tell the whole story.
"Certainly Stephen [Strasburg] has pitched well. [Jordan Zimmermann] has pitched well. Tanner [Roark] has pitched well. Gio [Gonzalez] has got 22 scoreless or whatever he's got. It's the way the game works out sometimes. We've seen that with [Zimmermann] especially, that sometimes the run support just isn't there and you don't get that win, per se, but they've all pitched really well."
Fister earned his 11th win Wednesday night in Nationals Park, throwing 7 ⅓ innings against the New York Mets in which he gave up six hits and one unearned run, walking no one, striking out seven and inducing 11 ground ball outs from the 27 batters he faced.
Before tonight Fister won at least 11 games twice before in six-year major league career, in his 32nd appearance and 31st start in 2011, during the season in which he was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Tigers.
In his third season with Detroit last year, Fister earned his 11th win in his 26th turn in the rotation.
Last night's was the right-hander's 15th start for the Nationals this season, after the start of his 2014 campaign was delayed until the second week of May by a strained right lat suffered at the end of Spring Training.
So is he the Nats' ace now?
Williams was asked again last night.
"I think they're all good," he said. "I think all of our starters are good.
"They've all got the ability to go out there and compete and keep us in games and win games for us. With regard to Doug, he was good once again. Kept them off-balance, threw strikes. Relaxed, certainly, after the first inning where we got some runs and went to work, so he was really good again tonight."
Fister's work on Wednesday and offensive contributions from Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa among others lifted the Nationals to a 7-1 win after they'd dropped two in a row to start the week.
"Quality starting pitching will do that," Williams said of the Nats' starters' ability to bring losing streaks to an end before they get out of hand. "They've got the ability to go out and stop a skid if we get into one and for that matter if we play really well we can have an extended good period too, so it's nice to have those guys that can go out there and be a 'stopper' if you will, so they're all competing really hard, they're all pitching and ready to take the ball every fifth day."
Fister threw 101 pitches total, 63 of them sinkers according to BrooksBaseball, 47 of them (74.6%) for strikes and averaged 88.4 mph with the pitch.
"The radar gun doesn't blow up," Williams told reporters. "But he throws the ball where he wants to. Tonight he was really down in the zone, really down and on the corners tonight. We got a lot of ground balls, got a couple of double plays, and that's kind of what he provides for us, the ability with one pitch to get two outs and that's huge."
The Nationals turned two double plays for Fister, but Anthony Rendon, who was charged with an error, and Danny Espinosa who dropped Rendon's throw to second, blew a chance at a third in the eighth. Fister got Mets' outfielder Eric Campbell looking for the second out of the eighth and was replaced on the mound by Matt Thornton, who allowed one of the two runners he inherited to score.
• We talked about the Nationals' win, the Bryce Harper drama and Anthony Rendon's continued contributions on last night's edition of Nats Nightly: