Doug Fister went (0-3) in his first four starts in July with a 5.32 ERA and a .347/.388/.526 line against in 22 innings on the mound in four straight losses for Washington against Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
Nationals' skipper Matt Williams talked after the loss to the Pirates about what Fister struggles with when his sinker isn't sinking, which it hasn't been more often than not throughout the first 14 starts of the right-hander's second season in the nation's capital.
"He needs to get on top of the baseball and turn the hand over to get it to sink," Williams explained to reporters in PNC Park.
"For some reason he's just not feeling it. He hasn't felt it.
"He's been able to change speeds fine. He's healthy. Velocity is normal last couple of times out. It's not anything drastic off, he's just not getting it to where he wants it to get to with the movement he wants, so he'll continue to work."
Fister bounced back from that outing with a six-inning start against the Miami Marlins on the road in Marlins Park in which he gave up four hits, a walk and two earned runs in a 7-2 win.
"He worked ahead," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said of the 96-pitch outing.
"Good slider, good cutter today against the lefties. Better changeup. I thought his tempo was good."
"I think if you ask him," Williams said, "I think he felt more comfortable with his mechanics with getting the ball where he wanted to get it today.
"90-ish pitches. Just a touch over 90. Good. Threw six innings and I thought he was in command. He ran into a tough stretch there where they got the second run, but other than that he was in command pretty well."
Fister said he went into the outing with a goal of, "... staying tall and keeping the ball down," and was able to do it.
"Tonight was much better," he said.
"More consistent. Still left a few balls up in the middle of the plate, but kept it to a fairly minimum number to keep within reason. It's another stride in the right direction and we're continuing to work on it."
The work he did between starts against the Pirates and Marlins paid off for the 31-year-old sinker-balling righty.
"We went and really worked hard in the bullpen three days ago and it made a huge difference," Fister said.
"We ended the bullpen on a positive note and that was a big turning point for me. Getting that good feeling and so now I've got high expectations for myself continuing on and really kind of building on top of this."
Fister's win over the Fish was his first since June 25th in his second start back following over a month on the DL with forearm tightness.
Tonight in Nationals Park, in the series opener with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he's in the role of a stopper, hoping to help the Nationals bounce back from the three-game sweep in Citi Field that left them 3-7 in their last ten and tied for first in the NL East with the New York Mets The first of four with the D-Backs starts at 7:05 PM EDT in D.C.
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