May 14, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: In the finale of what became a frustrating West Coast trip, the Nationals once again struggled to produce at the plate with a makeshift lineup. But they had a highly effective Doug Fister on the mound for them, and because of him, they gave themselves a chance to beat the Diamondbacks.
Fister allowed just one run over seven sterling innings — Aaron Hill’s solo homer in the fourth — in a performance that put to rest any doubts that surfaced after the right-hander’s disastrous debut last weekend against the A’s. The Nationals needed it, because Brandon McCarthy was just as good for Arizona, carrying a 1-hit shutout into the seventh. Jayson Werth’s homer, though, tied the game and left this one in the hands of the respective bullpens.
The Diamondbacks’ pen has been a mess this season, but Brad Ziegler hasn’t been the problem. This time, he was. The Nationals pounced on the side-winding right-hander for four runs in the top of the ninth, with Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore each driving in a pair on clutch hits. Rafael Soriano then finished off the Nats’ 12th come-from-behind victory this season, tied for the most in baseball.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Desmond takes a lot of heat for his penchant to swing at the first pitch so much, but it’s tough to criticize him when he delivers a big hit like this while stepping to the plate ready to hack. After Werth was intentionally walked to load the bases with nobody out in the top of the ninth, Desmond knew Ziegler needed to throw strikes. So he pounced on the first one he saw, drilling a two-run single that gave the Nationals the lead for good. Desmond has proven over his career his aggressive approach can pay off. He’s now hitting .377 (148-for-393) with 57 RBI when putting the first pitch into play as a major leaguer.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This is what the Nationals were thinking when they acquired Fister last winter. After an uncharacteristic season debut Friday night in Oakland, he was back to his old self today. Fister fired sinker after sinker down in the strike zone, mixing in some breaking balls to keep hitters off-balance. He was relatively efficient, completing seven innings on 100 pitches. He didn’t walk a batter. He struck out six. Fister’s only real mistake was falling behind Hill 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, then grooving a fastball to the Diamondbacks second baseman, who had the green light and promptly homered. Other than that, Fister was fantastic during a performance the Nationals can only hope becomes the norm for him.
KEY STAT: The Nationals are now outscoring opponents 19-3 in the ninth inning this season.
UP NEXT: The Nationals head home tonight, then will enjoy a day off before opening a weekend series against the Mets. Tanner Roark faces Jonathan Niese in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. opener at Nationals Park.
NL EAST STANDINGS
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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