5. Keep it down, Doug!!: Doug Fister held the New York Mets scoreless over 6 ⅓ innings pitched last time out on the mound, in Flushing, Queens, NY's Citi Field. It was a solid outing from the Nats' 31-year-old, 6'8'' starter, who was able to keep the ball down in the zone after struggling to do so in his two previous outings, which saw the second-year Nat surrender 17 hits and nine earned runs in back-to-back starts against the St. Louis Cardinals and the same Atlanta Braves he was set to face this afternoon.
The key against the Mets, Nats' skipper Matt Williams explained, was location.
"Down," Williams said. "Everything was down. Not as many fly balls today. He had some jams today where he was throwing the ball on the corner coming back to the lefties. That's the key for him."
Fister was lifted with one out in the seventh, at just 89 pitches, because Williams thought he saw signs the right-hander was starting to tire. Mets' catcher Kevin Plawecki doubled to left and off the wall on the final pitch Fister threw.
"Doug wasn't real happy about it," Williams said after the Nats held on for a 1-0 win, "but the ball that Plawecki hit to left off the wall was just elevated and when he gets in trouble then it starts to come up a little bit -- when he gets tired, so felt it was the right spot."
Fister got the win to improve to (2-1) on the year with a 2.61 ERA, a 4.38 FIP, nine walks (2.61 BB/9) and 14 Ks (4.06 K/9) in 31 IP.
Today in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park, Fister was facing the Braves again after giving up 10 hits and five runs (4 ER) against them in Atlanta, GA's Turner Field during the Nationals' last road trip.
"Ball is just elevated just a touch," Williams said after that outing.
"Throwing it in there, but it's just up around the belt which is not characteristic of him, generally he's down. The last couple of times out it's been elevated just a little bit, so he's working on it."
That start vs the Braves, and the loss, Fister's first to Atlanta, left him with a (3-1) record in four career starts, a 2.28 ERA, six walks (1.95 BB/9) and 17 Ks (5.53 K/9) in 27 ⅔ IP against the Nats' NL East rivals in his career, and a .235/.294/.286 line against.
His fifth career start vs the Braves began with a HBP on Nick Markakis, but Fister got Andrelton Simmons looking with a comeback 0-2 fastball that caught the outside edge (though Simmons disagreed) for the first out of the frame.
Freddie Freeman grounded out to second for out no.2 and a fly to right from Kelly Johnson ended a relatively quick, 13-pitch first.
Two fly balls, one to right and one to center, and a 1-2 fastball to Braves' catcher Christian Bethancourt that was called strike three got Fister threw a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 23 total.
Given a 3-0 lead to work with, Fister returned to the mound in the third and caught Cameron Maybin looking with a 1-2 fastball. Julio Teheran grounded out to third for out no.2, and Danny Espinosa made a range-y play to his left on a Nick Markakis grounder to end a 13-pitch frame. 36 total. Nine straight outs.
Line drive outs to left, by Andrelton Simmons, and center, by Freddie Freeman, gave Fister his 10th and 11th straight outs. Kelly Johnson stepped in with two out and sent a fly to right to make it 12-straight. Eight-pitch frame. 44 total.
Alberto Callaspo sent a flare to left for a leadoff single in the fifth and the Braves' first hit of the game off Fister.
Jace Peterson sent a grounder to short that bounced off Yunel Escobar's glove to Ian Desmond, who made a strong throw to first for the out. One out later, Cameron Maybin worked the count full with a runner in scoring position for just the second time in five innings and lined an RBI double to left field to make it 3-1 Nationals after four and a half. 18-pitch frame for Fister, 62 total after five.
Nick Markakis singled to left to start the sixth, and was running when Andrelton Simmons sent a sharp grounder to short in the next at bat. Ian Desmond tried to turn a DP himself, but got to second late and settled for the out at first. Freddie Freeman came up with a runner in scoring position and sent a roller toward first that Fister handled for out no.2. Kelly Johnson's groundout to first ended a 16-pitch frame. 78 total for Fister.
• Christian Bethancourt lined a two-out single through short in the Braves' seventh, and Cameron Maybin doubled again on a diving first-pitch change from Fister to send the catcher around to second. Pinch hitter Pedro Ciriaco hit an RBI double to left on a 1-0 change to drive two in and make it 6-3 Nationals.
• Doug Fister's Line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 92 P, 64 S, 8/1 GO/FO.
4. Teheran vs the Nats: A rough MLB debut by A.J. Cole put the Nationals in a big hole early in Turner Field back on April 28th in Atlanta, but they clawed their way back into the game with a run in the first, another in the third, four in the fifth and a seventh in the sixth inning to finally knock starter Julio Teheran out of the game after he'd surrendered 10 hits, and seven runs total, four earned in 5 ⅔ IP.
Teheran bounced back from that shaky outing, which was the Nationals' epic, 13-12 comeback, with six scoreless on the mound against the Cincinnati Reds his last time out before today, earning his third win of the season.
Before taking the mound this afternoon in the second game of the Braves' three-game set in the D.C., Teheran, 24, was (3-1) on the year with a 3.82 ERA, 5.46 FIP, 14 walks (3.82 BB/9) and 28 Ks (7.64 K/9) six starts into his fifth major league season.
Against the Nationals, after the Nats knocked him around in Georgia, Teheran was (3-2) in nine starts, with a 3.23 ERA, .288/.346/.437 line against, 17 walks (2.75 BB/9) and 50 Ks (8.08 K/9) in 55 ⅔ IP.
His tenth career start against the Braves' NL East rivals began with a single to right by Denard Span, but a grounder back to the mound off Yunel Escobar's bat started a 1-6-3 that gave Teheran two quick outs.
Jayson Werth took a two-out walk from the Braves' right-hander to bring Bryce Harper up. Harper started up 2-0, got up 3-1, and sent a fly to center on a 3-2 pitch that ended a 21-pitch frame.
Ian Desmond took a first-pitch slider to center for a one-out single in the Nats' second and Jose Lobaton jumped on a first-pitch fastball, sending a two-run blast out to the upper deck in right field for a 2-0 Nationals' lead early.
Danny Espinosa doubled to center on a 1-1 change in the next at bat, and one out later, Denard Span walked on four pitches to put two on in front of Yunel Escobar, who hit a bloop single to center to bring Espinosa in from second and make it 3-0 Nats after two. 22-pitch frame for Teheran, 43 total.
Bryce Harper took his MLB-leading 27th walk of the season from Teheran in the first at bat of the Nats' fourth, but Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond K'd swinging for the first two outs of the frame. Jose Lobaton got to a 3-1 count, but popped out to end a 15-pitch frame that left Teheran at 58 pitches after three.
Doug Fister doubled to center and off the out-of-town scoreboard with one down in the Nationals' fourth, but he was doubled up off second on a line drive to second baseman Jace Peterson off Denard Span's bat. 10-pitch frame, 68 total for Teheran after four.
Jayson Werth did his trademark slide stop™ around first base after sending a chopper by third base and into left off Alberto Callaspo's glove. Bryce Harper stepped in next with a runner on and lined a single to left field, going with a 2-0 fastball away from Teheran to put two on with one out. Ryan Zimmerman came up with two on and one out and battled for eight pitches before hitting a line drive home run to left field that went out so fast it had to be reviewed to make sure it cleared the fence. 3-run blast, 6-1 Nats after five. 29-pitch frame, 97 total.
• Julio Teheran's Line: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HRs, 97 P, 61 S, 2/1 GO/FO.
3. Ring of Honor - Frank Robinson: The Nationals unveiled a new placard today, down towards the right field foul pole on the facade of the ring that runs around the stadium beneath the second deck. Frank Robinson was honored this afternoon. The former Expos and first Nationals' manager had his name added to the so-called Ring of Honor, alongside all of the great names from Washington's and Montreal's baseball history.
He threw out the first pitch too, on Frank Robinson Day in the nation's capital. Great to see Robinson back in D.C.
I miss Mr. Robinson:
Robinson was asked today about the state of the franchise he once managed, and the Hall of Fame player said that the Nationals were close to doing something special...
"They're right there now.They're there. It's only a matter of time. And in the next few years, if not this year, you're gonna see a World Series flag flying from the flagpole in centerfield."
2. Turning Point(s): Jose Lobaton's only home run before this afternoon came off Julio Teheran in the Nationals' dramatic come-from behind, 13-12 win over the Braves during Washington's swing through Atlanta during last week's road trip.
With a runner on and one out in the second ininng today, Lobaton crushed a first-pitch fastball from Teheran and put a two-run blast into the first few rows of the upper deck in right. 2-0 Nats. Danny Espinosa doubled in the next at bat and scored on an RBI single to center by Yunel Escobar, 3-0 Nationals.
Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, after the Braves got on the board in the top of the inning and hit a three-run, line drive home run to left field to put the Nationals up 6-1 on Teheran and the Braves. Zimmerman's 3rd of 2015.
Aaron Barrett gave up back-to-back singles to start the eighth and a one-out walk to load the bases.
Matt Williams went to Tanner Roark with left-handed hitter Jace Peterson up, and Roark got the first out (sort of, not really), while a run scored, but a two-out, two-run double by Braves' backstop Christian Bethancourt tied things up at 6-6 after seven and a half in the nation's capital.
1. The Wrap-Up: Trevor Cahill took over on the mound for Atlanta in the bottom of the sixth and retired the Nationals in order.
Matt Thornton inherited a runner on second from Doug Fister, and stranded him when Bryce Harper stretched out to make an impressive catch on a line drive to right by Nick Markakis.
Brandon Cunniff threw away a potential double play grounder back to the mound off Ryan Zimmerman's bat, but got an inning-ending DP out of Ian Desmond to keep it 6-3 after seven.
Aaron Barrett got the call in the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to center by Andrelton Simmons. Freddie Freeman drove a 95 mph 0-2 fastball through the right side for the second straight hit. Kelly Johnson K'd swinging at the fourth straight slider Barrett threw him. Alberto Callaspo worked the count full and walked to load the bases with one out.
Tanner Roark came on to face Jace Peterson... and got ahead with a 1-1 curve, and got a weak roller to toward first for the second out of the frame. 6-4 game. Christian Bethancourt fell behind 0-2, got to 2-2 and hit a gapper to left-center to tie it up at 6-6. Cameron Maybin's groundout ended the frame. Tie game. 6-6.
In the bottom of the eighth, Luis Avilan gave up a leadoff single to center by Jose Lobaton, who was replaced on the basepaths by Michael Taylor. Danny Espinosa K'd swinging as Michael Taylor swiped second. Cody Martin came on to face Dan Uggla, who lined a double to left. Taylor tried to score, but the throw in from Kelly Johnson to beat Taylor to the plate. Denard Span popped out to end the eighth.
Drew Storen threw a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth.
Yunel Escobar singled to short off Martin to start the Nats' ninth. Jayson Werth K'd swinging at a high fastball for the first out of the frame. Bryce Harper... did it again. Walk-off home run on a 1-0 slider. 435 ft to center. Ballgame.
Nationals now 16-15.