NL East Rumble Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals went up 1-0 early in the first game of three with the Atlanta Braves in D.C. Anthony Rendon lined to right for the first hit off lefty Mike Minor, and one out later, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back two-out singles to send Rendon around to third and then home for a 1-0 lead after one inning of play.
The Nationals added to their lead in the seventh. Wilson Ramos singled and hustled around to third on a double to left by Asdrubal Cabrera. Pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz failed to advance the runners, but after an intentional walk of Denard Span loaded the bases, Jeff Kobernus took over at third for Ramos and scored on a fielder's choice force at second on Anthony Rendon's grounder up the middle of the infield. 2-0 Nationals after seven.
The Braves finally scored in the eighth with Freddie Freeman coming through with a two-out RBI single to right that scored pinch hitter Jose Costanza from third after he took over on the basepaths for Ryan Doumit after the bench bat's one-out double. 2-1 Nationals.
That's as close as the Braves would get. 2-1 Nationals.
4. Fister vs Atlanta: "He's quick to the plate," first-year Nationals' skipper Matt Williams said after 30-year-old right-hander Doug Fister threw eight scoreless against the Atlanta Braves in June in Washington, D.C.
"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."
"He controlled the strike zone," Williams said after the 6'8'' starter struck out three Braves' hitters and allowed five hits and a walk in the Nats' 3-0 win. "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."
That outing was the second of Fister's career against the Braves, with the first coming when he was pitching for the Detroit Tigers, before the trade that brought him to the nation's capital this winter.
Through 21 starts in his first season in a Nationals uniform, the veteran in his sixth major league campaign was (12-6) with a 2.66 ERA, a 3.96 FIP, 18 walks (1.20 BB/9) and 82 Ks (5.45 K/9) in 135 ⅓ IP before tonight.
Fister entered tonight's start against the Braves in Nationals Park winless in his last four outings (0-3), over which he's put up a 4.18 ERA and a .314/.352/.480 line against in 23 ⅔ IP.
Williams was asked after the start in L.A., which saw Fister give up four runs, two each in his final innings of work in the fifth and sixth, if there was anything he could see that was different for the righty from his previous outings.
"I don't know," Williams said, "it's just the third time around the lineup, they get a sense for him. Again, he made good pitches until that point and it just didn't happen for him. But he's pitched well all year for us, so we're confident in him going back out there."
Tonight, Fister was back home in D.C. where he was (6-2) through nine starts this season, with a 2.17 ERA, 3.19 FIP and a .213/.246/.322 line against in 62 ⅓ IP.
Fister's 10th start in his third major league home, began with a groundout to short.
1st: Jason Heyward sent the third pitch of the game out to short for the first out of the series. Emilio Bonifacio fell behind 0-2 and took a fastball outside for a called strike three. Fister fell behind Freddie Freeman, 3-1, and Freeman beat the shift with a grounder by third for a two-out single. Justin Upton grounded into a force at second in the next at bat though, ending the top of the first after 17 pitches.
2nd: Chris Johnson grounded out to third. Tommy La Stella buzzed Fister's tower with a one-out single to center, but he was doubled up on a grounder to short by Andrelton Simmons. The 6-4-3 DP ended a 12-pitch frame by Fister, who was up to 29 pitches overall after two.
3rd: Ian Desmond handled a one-hopper to short off Gerald Laird's bat. Mike Minor fouled off a five two-strike pitches before striking out. Jason Heyward stepped in with two out and sent a high fly to right to end a 13-pitch inning. 42 total for Fister.
4th: Emilio Bonifacio sent Denard Span back to the track where the center fielder caught the first out of the fourth. Freddie Freeman sent one to Span too. Justin Upton stepped up with the bases empty and walked, bringing Chris Johnson to the plate with a runner on, but Johnson grounded into a force at second to end a 22-pitch frame by Fister, who was up to 64 pitches after four.
5th: Tommy La Stella sent a fly ball to Bryce Harper in left-center. Andrelton Simmons grounded out to his counterpart at short. Gerald Laird grounded out to second, under Fister's glove to end a nine-pitch fifth by Fister. 73 total after five.
6th: Mike Minor grounded out to short. Jason Heyward took a 1-2 fastball for a called strike three. Emilio Bonifacio sent a fly ball to center for out no.3 and Fister's 14th scoreless inning vs the Braves this season. Nine-pitch frame, 82 total after six.
That's seven straight set down by @dougfister58 and 13 of the last 14. Straight dealing.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 9, 2014
7th: Freddie Freeman walked to start the seventh in a five-pitch at bat. Justin Upton sent Denard Span back to the track where the Nats' center fielder caught the first out of the seventh. Chris Johnson's fly to right-center was headed for the gap when Denard Span caught up to it. Two down. Tommy La Stella drew a two-out walk. Matt Williams came out for a chat but left Fister in, exciting the Nats Park crowd. Fister got up 0-2 on Andrelton Simmons and got a force at second on a grounder to short. 22-pitch frame, 104 overall.
• Doug Fister's Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 104 P, 71 S, 10/5 GO/FO.
3. Minor Threat: Atlanta Braves' lefty Mike Minor entered tonight's series opener in Washington, D.C. (3-4) in eight second-half starts with a 4.29 ERA, 4.35 FIP and a .260/.316/.407 line against in 50 ⅓ IP.
In his first start of the year against the Nationals, back on June 20th in Nationals Park, the Braves' '09 1st Round pick gave up seven hits, two walks and two earned runs in seven innings pitched in which he struck out a season-high 11 Nationals' batters.
Minor received no decision in Atlanta's 6-4 win over the Nats in June, leaving him (3-2) against the Braves' NL East rivals in his five-year career with a 4.64 ERA, 27 walks (4.64 BB/9) and 43 Ks (7.39 K/9) in 52 ⅓ IP, with Nationals' hitters putting up a .270/.356/.429 line against him in his career.
On the road this season, before tonight, Minor was (3-2) with a 4.41 ERA, a 3.78 FIP and a .253/.311/.420 line against in 63 ⅓ IP.
The Nationals scored a run early on Minor in his second start of the year against the Nats in Nationals Park with Anthony Rendon, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond all singling in the first. Rendon lined to right with one down, took third on LaRoche's liner to right-center and scored on Desmond's two-out RBI hit. 1-0 Nationals after a 15-pitch frame by Minor.
An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Minor at 23 pitches total after two.
Anthony Rendon walked with one down in the Nats' third, but he was caught stealing by Gerald Laird. Jayson Werth walked with two down and took second on a check-swing bunt-ish thing by Adam LaRoche. Ian Desmond stepped in with two on and two out again and sent a fly to right that Jason Heyward snagged with a sliding catch in the corner. 22-pitch frame for Minor, 45 total after three.
Minor needed just seven pitches to retire Nats in order in the fourth. 52 total.
Denard Span singled to left with one down in the home-half of the fifth. Minor started behind 3-0 to Anthony Rendon. but got a fly to left on a full-count pitch and Jayson Werth sent a fly to right to end an 18-pitch frame by Mike Minor, who was up to 70 pitches after five.
A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Minor at 79 pitches.
Wilson Ramos singled to center to start the Nats' seventh and went first-to-third on a double to left by Asdrubal Cabrera. That was it for Minor... [ed. note - "Action picks up at no.1."]
• Mike Minor's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 82 P, 55 S, 7/5 GO/FO.
2. NL East 1-2 in D.C.: With six games left between them this season, the Washington Nationals entered play today with a seven-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
In their head-to-head matchups, the Braves were 9-4 before the start of the three-game set in D.C., with four wins in seven games in Nationals Park and five wins in six in Atlanta, GA's Turner Field.
There were more reporters than usual in the pregame meeting with Matt Williams today, and the game was being broadcast nationally on the MLB Network, with the two previous division winners and NL East's top two teams again this season battling it out in the nation's capital, but the first-year skipper said he and his team were approaching it like they would any other game and he was going to manage it like any other game as well.
"It's another game," Williams said. "It's no different than yesterday's. We want to play well, I mean Doug [Fister] is going and we're confident about Doug and the way [he] pitches and who goes about it. But other than that? It's a game. We have to play today and try to win today's game. I know it's boring, but it's true.
"Regardless of what happens tonight, we'll forget about it and move to tomorrow, but that's all we can think about at this point is today. So, try to beat them, try to do what we can to have one more run than they do."
The Nationals won, 2-1.
1. The Wrap-Up: Right-hander David Hale took over for Mike Minor and Atlanta with runners on second and third and no outs and got an unproductive groundout to first from Nate Schierholtz. An intentional walk to Denard Span loaded the bases for Anthony Rendon. Jeff Kobernus came on to run for Wilson Ramos at third. Rendon grounded into a force at second. 1-4-6 for the force, but Kobernus scored. 2-0 Nats.
Tyler Clippard struck Gerald Laird out, but pinch hitter Ryan Doumit doubled to right in the next at bat, sending a fly ball to the corner that Jayson Werth tracked down but dropped on a sliding attempt. Jason Heyward walked to put two on for pinch hitter Ramiro Pena, who K'd swinging over a 1-2 change outside. Two on, two out.
Matt Thornton came on to face Freddie "RISP" Freeman, whose grounder to right made it through the infield and cut the Nats' lead in half. 2-1.
Craig Stammen came on to face Justin Upton with two down and the tying run 90 ft from home and popped Upton up in foul territory off first where Adam LaRoche made a running catch. 2-1 Nats after seven and a half.
After a scoreless bottom of the eighth by Jordan Walden...
STORENWARNING!!!! Drew Storen came out looking for his second save in two days and his third of the season. Chris Johnson K'd swinging through an 0-2 change. Tommy La Stella spit on a 2-2 change way outside to go full and K'd looking at an over-the-top slider. Andrelton Simmons went down swinging. Ballgame.
Nationals now 81-61