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Instant analysis: Nats 9, Reds 4

May 20, 2014, 10:08 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Talk about an imposing matchup: The Nationals, who have scored the fewest runs in the majors in May and have struggled all season against right-handers, had to go up against the best pitcher in baseball to date. Johnny Cueto entered with a 1.25 ERA, the first pitcher modern baseball history to go at least seven innings and give up two or fewer runs in his first nine starts to a season.

So what happened? The Nationals scored eight runs off Cueto and knocked him out in the sixth inning. Of course. They batted around during a 7-run sixth, getting contributions from just about everyone. Denard Span led the way with a 5-for-5 performance at the plate. Danny Espinosa added a 2-run single, and birthday boy Jayson Werth, Tyler Moore and Jose Lobaton all added run-scoring hits to pace the attack.

The beneficiary of all that run support: Doug Fister, who in his Nationals Park debut was outstanding. The tall right-hander allowed two runs over seven innings, picking up where he left off last week in Arizona and erasing what doubts had emerged after his shaky season debut in Oakland.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It’s been a rough start to the season for Span, who entered tonight’s game with a .239 batting average, .287 on-base percentage and questions about his apparently secure spot atop the Nationals’ lineup. Matt Williams has been sticking with Span, though, and plans to continue to, because he believes the 30-year-old is his best option atop the lineup. Span then went out and rewarded his manager’s faith with a fantastic ballgame. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. By night’s end, Span raised his batting average to .263 and his OBP to .308. It’s only one game, but it’s a start.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals love Fister not only because of his pitching ability but also because he is a complete player. He fields his position well. He handles the bat well. He runs the bases well. All of that was on display tonight. Fister worked fast, threw strikes and got quick outs, allowing only two runs over seven strong innings. He also made a couple of nice plays in the field, reached on an infield single and scored all the way from first base on Span’s single-plus-error. This is what the Nats believed they were getting all along in the right-hander, who over his last two starts has allowed three total runs in 14 innings.

KEY STAT: Span became the sixth player in Nationals history (2005-present) with a 5-hit game. The others: Ian Desmond (2011), Cristian Guzman (2009), Elijah Dukes (2008), Jesus Flores (2008) and Nook Logan (2007). Guzman is the only other one in the group to go 5-for-5.

UP NEXT: The series concludes with a 4:05 p.m. Wednesday matinee. Tanner Roark looks to improve to 4-1, with Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon looking to improve to 6-2.

  1. veejh - May 20, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Span MVP
    Fister coMVP
    Moore honorable mention

  2. dcwx61 - May 20, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Great Game Denard!!!!!!
    Glad you’re on our team…the best defensive CF in the league too.

    • veejh - May 20, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      Raised his BA .20 tonight. That steal in the 6th was the spark we needed.

      • dcwx61 - May 20, 2014 at 10:18 PM

        cool…got home late so saw the 6th on the radio.

      • veejh - May 21, 2014 at 12:49 AM

        Raised .24, that is.

  3. Danny - May 20, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Happiest Nat right now is Matheus, Detwilers struggles may keep him in the big club.

  4. Mrsb loves the Nats - May 20, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    Time for a phantom injury for Det… Man, he couldn’t even get thru 2…

  5. janebeard - May 20, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    Wow. Nook Logan. I thought he was memorable for only on ignominious reason.

    • Section 222 - May 20, 2014 at 11:36 PM

      Where was he going? What was he thinking? :-)

  6. kirbs3256 - May 20, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    What a great team win. But Ross has 1 job-to eat up innings when the game is out of hand. MW look pissed when they got on the phone. It looks like Mattheus is fully recovered from the broken hand. But without Det having options he may be out of luck.

    • mrnat7 - May 21, 2014 at 7:41 AM

      MW should have let Det work his way out of the situation in the 9th and helped him build some confidence. That’s the only way Det will improve! He’s just loss in his roll now and doesn’t know what the Nats plans are with him.

  7. Hiram Hover - May 20, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Loved it–against Cueto!

    Sorry about Det, but he can’t bring me down.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 10:30 PM

      +1 Ross needs to solve his own problem. Next stop for him is LOOGYville

      • Candide - May 20, 2014 at 11:26 PM

        Ross’s problem is he’s a one-trick pony. It’s too bad, but that’s the fact, Jack.

        Beautiful night at the park. Good to see even the Death Valley part of the lineup getting in on the hitting. And I love watching Fister work. Only down side was when I checked MLB At Bat and saw the headline about RZimm’s thumb.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    Espi had a day off and 2 good offensive days in a row.

    • Eric - May 20, 2014 at 10:50 PM

      He was so pumped after that 2-RBI single. Good for him! Loved seeing that.

      Keep it going Espi!

  9. ArVAFan - May 20, 2014 at 10:55 PM

    Throws strikes? Yep.
    Works fast? Yep.
    Fields his position? Yep.
    Bonus: runs and hits, too.
    And if his Spring Training practice was any indication, he can bunt, too.

    Looking forward to more of Doug Fister. Welcome to DC.

    PS if you and the catcher can get a better plan in advance , you can work faster and not shake off so many signs . But I expect that will come with practice.

    • nats128 - May 20, 2014 at 11:44 PM

      I think I saw you at the game. Were you behind Chicken Man in Section 129?

      • ArVAFan - May 21, 2014 at 6:31 AM

        Yes, that was me. A great group of folks to sit with.

  10. Sonny G 10 - May 20, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    TyMo really impressed me with his defense at first base. He was awesome. If he continues to play like that I wouldn’t mind seeing him as our regular first baseman next year.

    • natinalsgo - May 20, 2014 at 11:37 PM

      I wrote the same in the game thread that his D has been real good.

    • tcostant - May 21, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      +2 As long as Zimm can make the throws from 3B

    • dcwx61 - May 21, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      +3

  11. Eric - May 20, 2014 at 11:33 PM

    Cliff Lee got an MRI on his left elbow today… Results unknown so far…

    Oy

  12. Section 222 - May 20, 2014 at 11:35 PM

    Couldn’t go and couldn’t watch, but what a nice surprise to check on the score around 9 pm and see 8-1 Nats. Wow. And against the best pitcher in MLB this year. Well, until now. So nice to see Fister put together another strong start. Yes Virginia, he’s better than Dan Haren or Edwin Jackson, just like we thought.

    And I see the MNF Index in the game post was down to 17.4%. Truly a great night.

    • natinalsgo - May 20, 2014 at 11:40 PM

      This was the split squad Reds team and he was up in the zone and still got away with it because it had excellent defense and BABIP working for him.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 11:53 PM

        You would be correct. Here’s his chart. Up in the zone but he had some tilt on that 2 seam. I would tend to agree with you that the competition wasn’t up to the task.

      • Section 222 - May 20, 2014 at 11:54 PM

        Wow Gonats. You’re really going to go there? Have you forgotten that that split squad Reds team beat Stephen Strasburg yesterday. What do you have against Fister?

      • natinalsgo - May 21, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        Yes, I’m going to go there. Strasburg faced a similar lineup and had to face Mesaroco in that lineup so he faced 6 of 9 regulars.

        Not 1 starter with a BA over .275.

        Fister faced Hamilton, Phillips, Frazier, Heisy and Cosart as their only regular starters. No Votto and Jay Bruce and Mesaroco makes a big difference. Of course Choo got traded and they have a 2nd baseman in RF and no natural 1st baseman.

        I was at the stadium real early and watching Mesaroco and Frazier and Pena taking lessons at 1st base.

      • Section 222 - May 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        Ok, do let us know when you think Fister has faced a good enough lineup to warrant praise for a job well done and a favorable comparison to the previous occupants of his spot in the rotation.

      • natinalsgo - May 21, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        Your arrogance hasn’t changed. It was a good performance. He beat a team that was ripe for the taking. He got away with some pitches and that happens. Good job Fister.

      • Section 222 - May 21, 2014 at 8:02 PM

        Arrogance? Hah! Well, neither has yours, even though your name has changed. Let’s check back in at the end of the season on Fister.

      • natinalsgo - May 21, 2014 at 9:35 PM

        I like you 222! You stand up well for your POV. I really like Fister. I hope you don’t think I didn’t. I just think the Reds are like the Nats where they are depleted now.

        His start in Arizona was good. Compare charts. He had 8 more balls in the bottom of the strike zone and 6 less in the upper 6 inches of the strike zone.

      • Section 222 - May 21, 2014 at 10:00 PM

        That’s interesting. I need to spend more time with those charts. Good stuff.

        I agree we shouldn’t annoint Fister the second coming quite yet. I think my original comment was in response to people who after his first start said he was another Haren. That’s just not right. But we’ll see how he does. Who knows, he could easily be better than Gio this year.

      • natinalsgo - May 21, 2014 at 10:54 PM

        Another Haren? Far from it. We’ve seen even when Strasburg doesn’t have his best stuff that he can still dominate and Fister has enough to do the same.

        What was interesting in the Arizona game was that the ump was giving him the low strike outside the zone and he stole 3 strikes there.

        The nice thing is that he is gaining confidence as someone pointed out.

      • veejh - May 21, 2014 at 12:18 AM

        Doesnt look that up to me. I see more balls in the lower half. Am I blind?

      • natinalsgo - May 21, 2014 at 8:56 AM

        Did you see where Lobaton was set up? Lobaton had his mitt low in the zone and the balls were coming in higher.

        Big difference between this team and the A’s.

  13. rmoore446 - May 20, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    This was the most encouraging game I’ve seen in quite a while. Fister was masterful and Span was wonderful as was Moore and so many others!

  14. David Proctor - May 21, 2014 at 12:12 AM

    If the Reds are a split squad team, what exactly are we?

    • veejh - May 21, 2014 at 12:19 AM

      A split squad team?

    • Hiram Hover - May 21, 2014 at 12:20 AM

      Split squad too – other half on the DL.

      • natinalsgo - May 21, 2014 at 8:51 AM

        The Nats are too. When you have 4 or 5 starters in there that is pretty much what a split squad is!

  15. Hiram Hover - May 21, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    So on the same night, Cueto and Tanaka both look human–Tanaka gives up 4 runs (3 earned) in 6 IP and takes his first loss in MLB.

    • veejh - May 21, 2014 at 12:31 AM

      Tanaka was due, too. After all, just like you said, they’re human.

  16. tcostant - May 21, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    It’s always nice to get a win, when going in you thought you have a real chance of losing the game, especially after Monday’s game!

  17. chaz11963 - May 21, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    One of the best games we have seen this season. It was a great night to be at the ballpark. Great team effort, and kudos to Span and Fister who both really stepped up!

    Take one more today for the series. Fanner Roark!

    • chaz11963 - May 21, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      EXCEPT- what to do about Det- ???

  18. waddueyeno - May 21, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    so nice to be reminded of logan and dukes. what a long strange trip…

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