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Nationals 4-0 over Marlins: Nats clinch home field advantage through NLCS

With their 4-0 win today in the first game of a doubleheader with the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals improved to 94-65 on the year and secured home field advantage through the NLCS. Doug Fister dominated the Fish. The Nats won again.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Fister vs the Fish Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams was asked after last night's 3-0 win over the visiting New York Mets about the possibility of clinching home field advantage throughout the NLDS and NLCS with one more curly-W in any of the four games remaining on the regular season schedule.

What would it mean to Williams and his coaches?

"It doesn't mean anything to me," the first-year skipper said. "I don't think it means anything to the staff. What it means is that we would have home field advantage for the first two rounds, but to have the best record is not something that we're concerned about, we're concerned about playing good baseball for the next four games and having some momentum in that regard going into the playoffs. So, we need to play well the next four."

The first game of two with the Miami Marlins today started well for the NL East Division Champs. Two at bats into the series opener the Nationals had a 1-0 lead courtesy of Anthony Rendon's 21st home run of the year. By the end of the first the Nats were up 2-0 after Adam LaRoche singled, took third on a double by Ian Desmond and scored on a passed ball.

Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond took the seventh and eighth walks of the game from Marlins' starter Jarred Cosart in the fifth, and after a Bryce Harper groundout moved both runners into scoring position, Zimmerman scored on a weak roller to short by Asdrubal Cabrera to make it 3-0 Nationals.

Doug Fister doubled to start the Nats' sixth, took third on a single by Denard Span and scored with two down when Ryan Zimmerman singled to center to make it 4-0 Nationals.

• Doug Fister completed nine scoreless for the compelete game shutout. Home field advantage secured through the NLCS.

4. Fister's Turn: Nationals' right-hander Doug Fister, like the other Nats' starters, is finishing strong.

In his last three outings before this afternoon's, the 30-year-old right-hander was (3-0) with a 1.83 ERA and a .174/.250/.319 line against over 19 ⅔ IP.

In twelve second-half outings, the 6'8'' starter was (7-4) with the Nationals 8-4.

His 6 ⅔-inning outing against the Miami Marlins last time out in Florida left him with a 2.21 ERA, a 4.03 FIP and a .250/.293/.365 line against in 77 ⅓ IP since the All-Star Break.

Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked after that start on the road in Marlins Park about the importance of having the rotation healthy and going strong as the regular season wraps up.

"It's going to really important for us," the first-year skipper said. "The guys work hard, they take their four days off very seriously and prepare for the next one. And so far they've been healthy. Doug had an issue coming out of Spring, but other than that he's been as healthy as can be. They all have really. In the remaining week or so, we're going to have to be cognisant of their pitch counts. Doug was really good tonight."

That start was Fister's first against Miami this season and the third appearance against the Marlins in his career.

In 15 ⅔ IP against the Fish in his six major league campaigns, the former Mariner and Tiger and current National was left with a 1.72 ERA and a .241/.279/.379 line against.

His second straight start against the Nationals' NL East rivals began with a swinging K...

1st: Marlins' leadoff man Christian Yelich K'd swinging through an 0-2 fastball up high. Donovan Solano took a first-pitch fastball through the left side of the infield for a one-out hit. Casey McGehee was first-pitch swinging too, and he popped out to Bryce Harper in short right. Garrett Jones stepped in with one on and two out, and sent the second fly to right where Harper made the catch to end a nine-pitch first inning.

2nd: Jarrod Saltalamacchia fouled a 1-2 fastball into Jose Lobaton's mitt. Justin Bour got jammed and grounded out to second. Enrique Hernandez sent a weak roller to short to end a ten-pitch second inning that left Fister at 19 pitches total after two.

3rd: Adeiny Hechavarria K'd swinging defensively at an 0-2 fastball inside. Jarred Cosart K'd swinging through a full-count fastball for out no.2. Christian Yelich stepped in with two out and sent a 3-1 fastball to left-center where Denard Span caught the third out of the frame. 14-pitch third, 33 total after three. Eight straight Marlins set down, and 9 of 10 retired overall.

4th: Donovan Solano was 2 for 2 with Miami's only two hits off Doug Fister after he singled through short to start the fourth. Casey McGehee popped out to second for out no.1 and Garrett Jones sent a chopper over the mound to Ian Desmond behind second, starting an inning-ending 6-3 DP. Eight-pitch frame for Fister, 41 total after four.

5th: Jarrod Saltalamacchia K'd swinging at a 1-2 curve outside. Justin Bour didn't come close to the 0-2 bender Fister threw him. Enrique Hernandez fell behind 0-2 quickly and grounded out to second to end a 10-pitch frame. 51 total for Fister after five scorless.

6th: Adeiny Hechavarria grounded out to short. Pinch hitter Ed Lucas did the same. Christian Yelich's groundout to first ended an 11-pitch sixth that left Fister at 62 pitches total after six.

7th: Donovan Solano grounded out to second. A 71 mph, 0-2 curve dropped under Casey McGehee's bat inside for out no.2 and K no. 7 for Fister. Garrett Jones sent a groundout to first to end a 10-pitch seventh that left Fister at 72 pitches overall.

8th: Fister hit Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a 2-2 fastball to put the lead runner on in the top of the eighth. Justin Bour stepped up with a runner on and went down swinging at an 0-2 curve. K no.8. Enrique Hernandez fell behind 0-2 quickly and sent a fly to center for out no.2. Adeiny Hechavarria worked the count full and sent a fly to right to end Fister's eighth scoreless frame. 19-pitch inning. 91 pitches overall.

9th: Jordany Valdespin bunted one back to the mound on the first pitch of the ninth. Christian Yelich fell behind 1-2 and went down swinging. K no.9. Donovan Solano lined to right where Bryce Harper made a diving attempt, but came up empty. Triple. Casey McGehee fell behind 0-2 and lined out to a diving Asdrubal Cabrera to end it.

Doug Fister's Line: 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 104 P, 77 S, 10/4 GO/FO.

3. Cosart Again: In nine starts since the Miami Marlins acquired Jarred Cosart from the Houston Astros on July 31st, the right-hander was (4-3) with the Fish 6-3 in his outings before this afternoon's, over which the 24-year-old, '08 38th Round pick put up a 2.29 ERA and a .231/.276/.292 line against. His last start, against the same Nationals he was facing today, saw him give up nine hits and three runs, all earned in 6 ⅓ IP.

That outing left him (0-1) in two career starts against the Nats in his second major league season, with a 3.65 ERA and a .298/.365/.468 line against in 12 ⅓ IP.

His second consecutive start against Washington, which took place this afternoon in Nationals Park, began with a groundout to second from Denard Span, but Anthony Rendon stepped in next, got hold of a 2-1 fastball and hit his 21st home run of the year out to left field in Nationals Park to make it 1-0 early in the day-half of the doubleheader in D.C.

Adam LaRoche singled with two down, took third on an opposite field double to right by Ian Desmond and scored on a passed ball on a fastball insider to Bryce Harper, who walked to put runners on the corners in front of Asdrubal Cabrera, whose pop to short-center ended a 25-pitch first by the Marlins' starter.

Denard Span walked with one down in the Nats' second, bringing Rendon up with a runner on. The Nats' third baseman took the second straight free pass from the Marlins' starter, bringing Ryan Zimmerman up, but a force at second base ended a 19-pitch second that left Cosart at 44 pitches total after two.

Adam LaRoche walked to start the Nats' third, but Ian Desmond grounded into a 6-4-3 DP. Bryce Harper walked with two down, taking the fifth walk of the game from the Marlins' starter, and Asdrubal Cabrera took the sixth free pass in three innings in the next at bat, but Jose Lobaton K'd swinging to end a 19-pitch frame that left Cosart at 63 pitches overall after three.

The Nationals went down in order in a quick, 11-pitch fourth that left Cosart at 74 pitches.

Ryan Zimmerman walked to start the home-half of the fifth, taking the seventh free pass from Cosart this afternoon, and one out later, Ian Desmond took walk no.8. Bryce Harper's groundout to first moved both runners up, so Asdrubal Cabrera stepped in with two on and two out and hit a slow roller toward short that brought Zimmerman in from third to make it 3-0 Nats after five. 25-pitch frame, 99 pitches total after five.

Jarred Cosart's Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 8 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 99 P, 51 S, 8/1 GO/FO.

2. Span Returns: When he spoke to reporters after the first game of yesterday's doubleheader, Matt Williams wasn't sure whether or not Nats' center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span would be back in the lineup for the third game of three the Nationals played with the New York Mets last night in the nation's capital.

Span injured his knee making a diving catch in left-center during the series opener with the Mets this week, and missed the last two games with New York. Williams said repeatedly that it wasn't that big an issue, but with the regular season winding down the Nats were being cautious.

"It's good," Williams said after the first game of two on Thursday. "He's a little sore. Knee is a little sore. But again, there's no lasting effects I don't think, it's just a question of whether he feels good enough to go tonight. We'll see."

Span didn't play last night, but after the Nationals won, Williams said the 30-year-old outfielder would return for the start of the regular-season-ending series with Miami.

"He's a little sore," Williams told reporters. "He's going to be in the game tomorrow though. We decided to give him another day. He tested it in-between games, he's still a little bit sore, so erring on the side of caution we decided to give him another day. He's good to go tomorrow though."

Span did return for the series opener with the Marlins, easing some of the concerns about the condition of his knee.

In 18 games in September before the first of two today, Span was 23 for 75 (.307/.381/.480) with two doubles, a triple, three home runs, seven walks and seven Ks.

In the series opener with the Marlins, Span grounded out, walked and singled in his first three trips to the plate, showing no ill-effects of the banged up knee.

In the seventh, Span stepped in against Marlins' lefty Dan Jennings with the bases loaded and two out and grounded back to the mound, 1 for 4, BB.

1. The Wrap-Up: Marlins' right-hander Sam Dyson took over on the mound in the bottom of the sixth and gave up a leadoff double by Doug Fister and a single by Denard Span that put runners on the corners with no one out. Anthony Rendon grounded into a 6-4-3 in the next AB, however,  leaving it up to Ryan Zimmerman, who came through with a two-out RBI single to center to make it 4-0 Nats.

Dyson gave up a one-out single by Bryce Harper in the bottom of the seventh, and Harper stole second base with Asdrubal Cabrera up in the next at bat. Cabrera walked to put two on and with two out Doug Fister took a free pass, the 10th of the day, to load the bases and end Dyson's outing. Denard Span came up against Marlins' lefty Dan Jennings and grounded back to the mound to leave'em loaded. Still 4-0 Nats.

Adam LaRoche singled with two down in the Nats' eighth, but Ian Desmond K'd swinging to end the eighth.

Doug Fister came back out for the top of the ninth and finished off the complete game shutout. Home field through the NLCS secured.

Nationals now 94-65