"He was focused on this game. This day. Pitching first in the doubleheader," Matt Williams told reporters in the nation's capital after Washington Nationals' starter Doug Fister's complete game shutout of the Miami Marlins on Saturday afternoon, which clinched home field advantage in the NLDS and NLCS if the Nats can make it that far.
"[He] was adamant about going out there for the first game for the last two days and he's determined," Williams said.
"Adamant?" a reporter asked.
"Just said he wanted to," Williams explained. "He just wanted to pitch today's first game and make sure that he had a chance to go out there and give us a 'W' and that, we love that determination. He's a competitor. He pitches well. He's in the game the whole game and nothing seems to phase him."
So did the 6'8'', 30-year-old right-hander, acquired from the Detroit Tigers this winter in a 3-for-1 deal that everyone but the GMs involved thinks was lopsided in the Nats' favor, want to be the one who locked down the NL's best record?
Was the possibility of clinching it and getting that next step out of the way behind his desire to get out there in the first game and get it done?
"No," Fister said. "I like getting here being ready to play, you know, wake up and go. I don't want to sit around all day and kind of mentally, physically, whatever it is, I just like being able to get up and play ball. It's like a little kid, we get to go out here -- Saturday morning games -- that's the way we are that's the way we get to come out here every day."
Williams said he knew early on that Fister was on his game.
"I think really what set the tone was the first at bat to [Christian] Yelich. He was 0-2 and went to work."
Fister threw an aggressive 87 mph fastball up high outside right by Yelich to end the quick three-pitch at bat.
"[He was] really good all day long," Williams said. "Throwing the ball where he wanted to and kept them off-balance. From the sixth inning on he threw a lot of curveballs that were swing-and-misses and strikes taken, so he was in command all day."
So having secured home field advantage through the NLCS, was it an advantage for the Nats, was it time to rest up and get ready with two games left and then four days off before Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday?
"Absolutely not," Fister responded firmly. "We've got to go full bore every day. Guys are going in fully locked-in, mentally ready and physically ready. We've got a few days when the season is over that we're going to stay ready and we've got to carry that through the last few days here."
In his 25th start of the season for the Nationals, Fister was certainly going full bore.
He retired 16 of the first 18 batters he faced, giving up just a one-out single in the first and a leadoff single in the fourth, both of them by Donovan Solano and both of them leading nowhere. Solano was stranded both times.
Fister retired eleven straight batters after the Marlins' second baseman's second hit, then hit Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a pitch in the first at bat of the eighth before retiring three straight to strand the catcher and finish eight scoreless on just 91 pitches.
A home-field clinch with the exclamation point. http://t.co/2HPJc7erRD— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) September 26, 2014
"If he got into any trouble in the eighth we had guys up and going," Williams explained, "but once he got through the eighth the idea was to let him finish it if he could."
Fister went back out for the ninth with the Nats up 4-0 and retired two batters before giving up a triple by Solano, who had all three of Miami's hits.
Casey McGehee lined out to second in the next at bat and Fister was done with nine scoreless innings on an efficient 104 pitches with a season-high nine Ks and 10 groundouts from the 30 batters he faced.
"It's a great team win," Fister said.
"It's something that we can enjoy for a little while and get ready for tonight. That's kind of the way we look at it. Guys are rolling, putting good at bats together, what was there eight or nine walks? Guys are seeing the ball well, that's what you want to have especially going into the playoffs the way we are and guys are locked in."
Anthony Rendon with his 21st home run and Adam LaRoche on a passed ball in the first, Asdrubal Carbera with an RBI single in the fifth and Ryan Zimmerman, who singled to bring Fister in in the sixth, provided all the offense for the Nats on Friday.
"That was a big milestone for us today," Fister said of earning home field advantage.
"I think that's going to give us some edge in the playoffs and it's always nice to be home. You've got your home fans, our own lockers, our own chairs, whatever it may be. Guys are comfortable here and that means a lot."
It also meant a lot to Fister that the win that clinched it was a team win with everyone contributing.
"This is a team game," he said. "We are a team. We're all brothers in here and that's how we play it, that's how we want to play it. We have something special in here."
We talked about Fister's start, the Nationals' postseason rotation, October baseball and the 15-7 loss in the nightcap on the latest episode of Nats Nightly: