Debate all you want whether he’s the ace of the Nationals’ staff, the stopper, the best starter, whatever designation comes to mind. Doug Fister doesn’t care what title he holds right now. The only thing that matters to the right-hander is that he keeps winning games for his team.
And that’s something Fister’s teammates notice, regardless of which slot he occupies in the Nats’ rotation.
“It’s no coincidence that I feel like a lot of runs get scored when Doug pitches,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “I think it’s a matter of really quick innings. He’s pitching to contact. Guys are on their toes. And there’s a lot of action. You’re back in the dugout quick. I’ve got to think that has something to do with it. It seems like when he’s pitching, we’re out there for 30 minutes on defense and spend two hours in the dugout. That’s a good feeling.”
Imagine how good the Nationals felt Wednesday night when Fister did exactly as LaRoche described and carved his way through the Mets’ lineup, leaving plenty of time for his lineup to bust out during a 7-1 victory that was completed in a scant 2 hours, 31 minutes.
With 7 1/3 innings of 1-run ball (and that run was unearned), Fister added another masterpiece to his growing collection. He now sports an 11-3 record and 2.49 ERA, sixth-best among all NL pitchers with at least 100 innings this season.
But those basic numbers only tell the beginning of the story. Dig deeper and you come away all the more impressed.
In 104 2/3 innings, Fister has walked only 13 batters. Opponents have attempted only one stolen base against him … and failed on that one attempt. And then this: Wednesday night marked the ninth time this season the Nationals have given the ball to Fister following a loss. His record in those games is now 7-2.
All that from a guy whose 87.9 mph average fastball ranks 110th out of 119 big-league starting pitchers.
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“The radar gun doesn’t blow up, but he throws the ball where he wants to,” manager Matt Williams said. “Tonight he was really down in the zone, really down and really on the corners tonight. We got a lot of groundballs, we got a lot of double plays, and that’s kind of what he provides for us: the ability with one pitch to get two outs. And that’s huge.”
Indeed, the double play is a designed part of Fister’s game. He induced two of them on Wednesday, giving him 10 total for the season in 16 starts.
“I’m trying to get a weak groundball on anything, especially when I get a runner on first base or first and second,” he said. “That’s exactly what I want to get. Fortunately we were able to do that a couple times tonight.”
As quickly as he works, and as many groundballs as he coaxes out of opposing hitters, is it any wonder Nationals infielder are so eager to take the field behind Fister?
“I enjoy it,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said. “It’s fun to see pitchers go out there and see them strike everyone out. But as an infielder, it’s fun to get groundballs, make plays and be part of the game.”