Former adversaries, Fister and Span, team up to take it out on the Reds

If you ask Doug Fister, Denard Span was always a tough hitter to face.

If you ask Span, Fister always got great movement on his pitches, which were incredibly deceptive to the hitter in the box.

Unfortunately for the Reds, they had to face both of them Tuesday.

The Nationals, led by Fister's seven strong innings and Span's 5-for-5 performance, cruised past Cincinnati 9-4.

Fister went seven innings and allowed just six hits and two runs. He walked only one batter, and struck out five. Span said you have to be ready when you step in the box against him.

"He works fast," Span said. "As far as facing him, you got to be ready to hit. You see his warm up pitches in between innings he is ready to go. He is just going to come after you. The gun doesn't say he is throwing that hard but with his height and his angle it is a lot harder than what it looks. And with the angle the ball is moving very good. Like I said tonight, he was able to just do what he does.

"I watched him in Detroit and also Seattle do that a lot. He is one of those guys where you go back to the dugout just shaking your head. I don't want to say you think he is not that good, but you just like go back and look at the video and your like 'wow, that ball actually moved four or five inches'. He hits his spots, he was good for us tonight."

Span went 5-for-5 with three singles, two doubles and two RBIs. He forced the Reds into multiple errors with his base running. His average was raised from .239 to .263. Fister remembered battling with Span in the American League and is glad he now wears the same uniform as him.

"He is a special hitter," Fister said. "I know I am really glad I don't have to face him any more. He was always somebody that gave me trouble and he continues to do that to the other guys and that is what we like.

"We like how he is aggressive, how he goes out there and does what he needs to do. He is going to lay the bunts down, he is going to run, he is going to try to pick up little things here and there to help us win ball games."

Fister earned his first win at home in his first start at Nationals Park. But if you asked him, he felt like he had pitched in D.C. before.

"It is funny, but it feels like home," Fister said. "Everybody makes it such a family atmosphere, especially with the club that we have, the teammates. Yeah, it is my first one here, but it feels like I have pitched here before. That's a comforting feeling."

The Reds scored a run on two hits in the first to take a 1-0 lead on Fister. The Reds got another man in scoring position in the second. But then Fister retired 12 consecutive batters. He was fairly pleased with his work.

"Overall, not too bad," Fister said. "Obviously, there are still some things I need to work on, but I felt like I executed well today. Biggest thing was guys played defense and got a lot of ground balls. They played defense, threw the ball well. Then they broke loose and scored a bunch. It was an all around team effort today."

Span's five hits matched his career high, the third time he had reached that plateau in one game, and the first time since August of 2009. A lot of talk the last couple of weeks had been on why Span was scuffling at the plate as his batting average dipped.

So does this offensive outburst change everything?

"It is just one day, man," Span said. I had a good day. Today was my day. I saw the ball good, and got to do it again tomorrow. That is what it is all about. (If I was) like a 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, my mind set the next day is yesterday was yesterday and you got to do it again."

A key play occurred in the third with Span at the plate. After Fister got to first on an error, Span's bunt turned into another Reds error, and Fister scored all the way from first base. Span then came home on a sacrifice fly, and the Nationals led 3-1.

"It was just one of those things," Span said of the at-bat. "A lot of times even with the bunt, I didn't say all right, when I go up this time, I am going to bunt. Sometimes you just look around and you get a feeling for me, get a feeling and just decide to trust your instincts and do it. That was what I was able to do tonight which is big for me. Just to trust my instincts."

Span said he has never stopped trying to improve at the plate, even with his recent struggles. Recently, he had been making better contact.

"I think you guys know me pretty good," Span said. "I work tirelessly in the cage, watching video. Just trying to get better every day. I probably said it last week or so, I have been having days where I find something and it feels good. Then maybe the next day it might not feel so good. I have been getting closer and closer to it.

"I have been seeing the ball well. I haven't been striking out, just more mechanical things have to iron out. That is why you play 162 games."

It's nice for the Nationals to have a pair of former American League standouts, Span and Fister, now taking their game out on opponents in the senior circuit.

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