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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Pirates 2

May 25, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: They entered today on a four-game losing streak, with a sub-.500 record and mounting concern in the clubhouse. Yet the Nationals had to feel encouraged about their chances in their series finale at PNC Park, for several reasons: 1) They had Adam LaRoche back from the DL, 2) They were facing a left-hander in Francisco Liriano, and 3) They had Doug Fister on the mound.

LaRoche may not have made a whole lot of difference in his first game in 15 days — he went 1-for-4 with a walk — but the Nationals lineup as a whole was more productive than it had been since its breakout inning against Johnny Cueto on Tuesday. Denard Span and Anthony Rendon combined to reach base five times and scored four runs, and Ian Desmond dropped in a pair of opposite-field RBI singles to pace the Nationals’ well-balanced attack.

That was plenty of support for Fister, who was brilliant for five innings before faltering a bit in the sixth and getting a bit of a quick hook from manager Matt Williams. The move worked, though, with Craig Stammen getting two outs on one pitch and then combining with Aaron Barrett and Rafael Soriano to close out a much-needed victory.

So the Nationals — now 21-1 when they score at least four runs — head home a .500 club, still facing some challenges after a rough weekend but feeling a little better about themselves entering a big, nine-game homestand against the Marlins, Rangers and Phillies.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Though the return of LaRoche was the Nationals’ lineup was the big storyline entering the game, the best at-bats of the day came from the two guys at the top of the lineup. Span got things started right away with a rope of a double off Liriano on the game’s second pitch. He also singled in the fifth, stole second and scored on Rendon’s triple off the wall in right-center, the third time Rendon reached base in the game’s first five innings. Combined, those two reached base five times and scored four runs, some much-needed production from the top of a lineup that has struggled to score runs all season.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Is there anybody the Nationals would rather have had on the mound today than Fister? He may not possess the pedigree of other members of their star-studded rotation, but his penchant for effectiveness, efficiency and steadiness made him the perfect man to take the ball for this must-win game. And Fister lived up to the reputation. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and carried a shutout into the sixth. He responded to a Desmond error by inducing a 6-4-3 double play. Since his rough debut in Oakland, Fister has now allowed four total runs in 19 1/3 innings, striking out 15 while walking only one. He has been exactly what the Nationals expected him to be. And exactly what they needed today.

KEY STAT: Though their 23 steals rank 13th out of 15 NL clubs this season, the Nationals’ 85 percent success rate on stolen bases is best in the NL.

UP NEXT: After a flight home to D.C. tonight, the Nats don’t get much turnaround time before they’re back at the park for a 1:35 p.m. Memorial Day game against the Marlins. Tanner Roark starts the series opener against fellow right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.

  1. unkyd59 - May 25, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    UNTUCK

  2. David Proctor - May 25, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Now let’s beat up the Fish and forget we were ever under .500.

    • David Proctor - May 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      BTW, The Fish are 1-5 against us and 25-20 against everyone else.

  3. veejh - May 25, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    Nice to salvage a win.

  4. Section 222 - May 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    UNTUCK baby! And a clean save too. How about that?

    That reminds me of something from Friday’s game when Harrison robbed Desi of what would have been a go ahead XBH for the last out. I didn’t hear any moaning from the Pirate fans or announcers about Grilli giving up a solid hit, or that Harrison looked disgusted with his pitcher. Guess they know how to appreciate a win.

  5. bgbg32b - May 25, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    Nice to get some breaks today with balls falling for hits and not into the opponents’ gloves. Nats needed this one badly.
    Who knew, MW pitching changes worked out too.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 25, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      It took the 4th game in the series to get any good bounces. The replay system worked even though you could debate whether that needed better discretion about placing runners at 3rd and 2nd. I listened to Charlie and Dave debate it.

  6. letswin3 - May 25, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    Another workmanlike start for Fister. Geez, I’m glad to have that guy. I think his presence on the mound also provides a little confidence boost (is there a metric for that yet?) for the guys …… me too.

  7. natsfan1a - May 25, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Nice. Got to watch most of the game, did not fall asleep on the couch, and there’s another curly w in the books.

    I’m also glad we have Fister.

    Now it’s time for some grilled steaks. mmmm…

  8. manassasnatsfan - May 26, 2014 at 12:25 AM

    I was at the game. Why was LaRoche at second and Ian first on Harrison’s diving drop. ALR was half way to second and by the Harrison got up and thrown it is there any way LaRoche would not be on third and Ian second.

    Next batter flies to deep center and LaRoche scores.

    It was the umps bad judgement that caused the problem, they follow it with a second misjudgement.

  9. scmargenau - May 26, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    This has to be a record for least comments….

    • Joe Seamhead - May 26, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Must be mainly because of the holiday weekend, though I expect that a few regulars are frustrated by Word Press.

  10. scmargenau - May 26, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    It’s not WordPress, it’s the coders. Commenting is a module, and this one is bad.

    Happy Memorial Day ev!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 47 1.5
MIAMI 48 52 8.0
NEW YORK 48 54 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 44 58 12.5
Through Thursday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

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.

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