5. Fister vs L.A.: Doug Fister's first half of the 2015 campaign, which included a DL stint for forearm tightness, ended with the 31-year-old right-hander (3-4) with a 4.08 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, 14 walks (1.97 BB/9) and 31 Ks (4.36 K/9) in 64 IP, over which the second-year National held opposing hitters to a .281/.328/.447 line.
Fister's final start of the first half was a six-inning outing against the Cincinnati Reds in which he gave up eight hits, a walks and two runs, one earned in what ended up a 3-2 loss in which he received no decision.
"I thought he pitched okay," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the game. "Kept us in it and gave us a chance."
In four starts since he returned from a month on the DL, Fister has gone (1-2) with the Nationals 1-3 in his starts, over which he's put up a 3.70 ERA and a .289/.324/.433 line against in 24 ⅓ innings pitched.
Williams said he's seen signs of improvement.
"He's pitching good," he told reporters. "He's giving our team a chance to stay in games and win games and he kept them off-balance for the most part tonight. I thought he pitched well, into the sixth, through the sixth."
"For me, there's some inconsistency there on the mound," Fister said.
"Not making quality pitches at times that are needed especially. But just fighting with myself a lot, trying to get the ball down. Really trying to get in a rhythm and it's a battle for me, so I've got a lot of work to do for the next five days."
Fister got plenty of time work on the inconsistencies he was concerned with over the All-Star Break. He took the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers this afternoon a full twelve days after his last start.
Joc Pederson walked on four pitches in the first at bat of the game, but got caught stealing two outs later, ending a 10-pitch opening frame.
Adrian Gonzalez lined a single to right on a 1-0 change in the first at bat of the second, and took third on an opposite field line drive single by Andre Ethier. Yasiel Puig stepped in with runners on the corners and no one out and singled on grounder up the middle to make it 1-0 Dodgers. A.J. Ellis sent a hot-shot to third to start a 5-4-3 DP in the next AB, and Jimmy Rollins K'd looking to end a 20-pitch inning that left Fister at 30 total after two.
Howie Kendrick singled on a ground ball to right with two down in the Dodgers' third, and Justin Turner lined a two-out single to center in the next at bat, but both runners were stranded when Adrian Gonzalez sent a fly to deep right for out no.3 of a 21-pitch third. 51 total for Fister after three.
A.J. Ellis singled to center with two out in the fourth, but he was stranded when Jimmy Rollins sent a fly to right field for the third out of a 15-pitch frame by Fister, who was up to 66 pitches total after four.
Fister hit Joc Pederson with a 2-2 fastball in Pederson's one-out at bat of the fifth. Howie Kendrick singled to center in the next AB, sneaking one under a diving Ian Desmond. Justin Turner lined an RBI single to left, bringing Pederson in for a 2-0 lead, and Kendrick took third on an error by Clint Robinson.
Andre Ethier lined to left in the next at bat, where Bryce Harper made a diving catch, but Kendrick scored to make it 3-0 LA, and an RBI single to left by Yasiel Puig brought Turner in too and it was 4-0 Dodgers before Fister got out of the fifth. 25-pitch frame, 91 total. That was it for Fister.
• Doug Fister's Line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 0 HR, 91 P, 58 S, 5/5 GO/FO.
4. Kershaw in Washington: Clayton Kershaw hasn't been as untouchable this season as he was in 2014, when the 27-year-old lefty was (21-3) on the year with a 1.77 ERA, a 1.81 FIP, 31 walks (1.41 BB/9), 239 Ks (10.85 K/9) and a .194/.231/.289 line against in 198 ⅓ innings pitched, earning himself his second straight NL Cy Young and the third Cy Young award of his eight-year career. He's still been pretty good though.
In 18 "first-half" starts for Los Angeles, the Dodgers' southpaw was (6-6) with a 2.85 ERA, a 2.39 FIP, 27 walks (1.98 BB/9) and 160 Ks (11.71 K/9) in 123 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .216/.267/.336 line.
Kershaw snapped a six-start winless streak last time out, with a complete game shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies in Dodger Stadium in which he gave up eight hits and struck out 13 of the 36 batters he faced in a 123-pitch effort.
"Throwing a complete game, shaking the guys' hands at the end of the game, that's what Sandy [Koufax] always said, that's the goal," Kershaw told reporters, casually dropping his Hall-of-Fame-worthy mentor's name.
Tonight in the nation's capital, Kershaw was facing the Nationals for the 12th time in his career, making his 11th start against Washington after going (7-2) with a 2.59 ERA, 17 walks (2.32 BB/9), 74 Ks (10.09 K/9) and a .204/.255/.343 line against in 66 IP in the previous outings.
Kershaw was up to 13 scoreless innings overall, going back two starts after he set the Nationals down in order in an 11-pitch frame.
Clint Robinson singled to center off Kershaw with one down in the second, but two outs later he was stranded at first. 14-pitch frame, 25 total after two.
Doug Fister singled to center with one down in the Nationals' half of the third, but he was stranded at first two outs later when Michael Taylor K'd swinging and Danny Espinosa K'd looking.
Six Ks total for Kershaw. 13-pitch frame, 38 pitches overall after three scoreless.
The Dodgers' lefty added two more strikeouts in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth that left him at 52 pitches overall after four with eight Ks from the 14 batters he'd faced.
Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore were strikeout victims no.9 and 10 as Kershaw retired the side in order in an 11-pitch fifth. 63 pitches, 10 Ks.
Kershaw 10 Ks, 63 pitches through five. As Tom V just noted, only one K on a fastball.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 18, 2015
Danny Espinosa reached on an error by Justin Turner at third with two down in the Nats' sixth, bringing Bryce Harper up with a runner in scoring position, but a swinging K left Harper frustrated and 0 for 3 with 3 Ks on the day. 12 Ks for Kershaw. 14-pitch frame, 77 total.
Yunel Escobar K'd swinging for Kershaw's 13th strikeout of the game, matching his total from his last start. Then Clint Robinson went down swinging too, 14 (a season high for the Dodgers' lefty) and a lineout to left by Ian Desmond ended Kershaw's seventh scoreless today after 12 pitches. 89 total.
A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth left Kershaw at 101 pitches total after eight scoreless... Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen took over in the ninth.
• Clayton Kershaw's Line: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 14 Ks, 101 P, 73 S, 7/0 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Friday night's suspended game was the first "non-weather-related suspension" in Nationals' history (2005-2015).
• Nationals historical note: On July 16, 2006, as the Nats mentioned in today's pregame notes, Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 17 games, a franchise record for rookies.
• Doug Fister, today's starter, has only faced the Dodgers once in his career before today, in a 4-1 loss in Dodger Stadium last September in which he gave up three runs and two walks in five innings of work.
We ❤️ our grounds crew! They're hard at work getting the field ready for more baseball at 4:05pm. pic.twitter.com/ARdEGEEU9f— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 18, 2015
• Among active pitches with 1,000-plus career innings pitched, Fister owns the best walk rate, 1.75 BB/9.
• The Dodgers entered today (before the finishing last night's game) with a 4.0-game lead in the NL West, the biggest lead of any current NL division leaders.
• Dodgers' catcher Yasmani Grandal is hitting .364 in July, going 8 for 22 with two doubles, two home runs and seven walks so far this month.
• Clayton Kershaw leads the majors with 160 strikeouts this season. Since May 26th (for our fun with arbitrary end points segment of the day), the Dodgers' lefty has a 1.53 ERA in 64 ⅔ innings pitched, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .185 AVG, while collecting 87 Ks (12.11 K/9).
• Kershaw has the lowest career ERA among pitchers with 1,000 or more innings pitched and 100 starts since 1920.
• Kershaw's also unbeaten in his last five starts vs the Nationals, with a 1.16 ERA in 38 ⅔ IP over that stretch.
2. Turning Point(s): Doug Fister put the leadoff man on with a four-pitch walk in the first, but worked out of trouble for a scoreless frame, but back-to-back-to-back singles by the Dodgers in the second gave them a 1-0 lead with Yasiel Puig connecting for the third of the three straight hits, an RBI infield single that bounced off Fister and kept going up the middle. 1-0 LA.
• The Dodgers rallied in the fifth as well, after a HBP on Joc Pederson put a runner on with one out. Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner hit back-to-back singles with Turner bringing Pederson in, a sac fly scored Kendrick and a two-out RBI single by Yasiel Puig made it 4-0 Dodgers after five in D.C.
• The moment Clayton Kershaw took the mound.
1. The Wrap-Up: Taylor Jordan took over for Doug Fister in the top of the sixth, and threw a quick, scoreless frame.
Adrian Gonzalez doubled to center off Jordan with one down in the top of the seventh, and Jordan walked Yasiel Puig in the next at bat, but A.J. Ellis K'd looking to end the frame. Still 4-0 LA.
Jimmy Rollins walked to start the eighth, but Jordan completed another scoreless frame.
Sammy Solis took the ball for the Nationals in the top of the ninth and completed a scoreless frame.
Kenley Jansen gave up a two-run bomb of a home run to right by Bryce Harper (no.27), but that's as close as the Nationals got.
4-2 Dodgers final. Rubber match tomorrow.
Nationals now 49-40