Nationals manager Matt Williams was impressed with Doug Fister's 117 pitches over eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 shutout of the Braves Saturday night and what it meant to a tired bullpen.
"Really good. Picked up the bullpen," Williams said. "We pushed his pitch count a little bit, but he felt great. Pitched really well. Controlled the zone all night."
Williams said Fister's start prevented the Braves from getting going because he forced the issue with good command.
"Just that he controlled the strike zone," Williams said. "All of his pitches for strikes. Working ahead in the count. All of those things that pitchers do when they go deep into a game. He did that tonight. Really stepped up for the bullpen, too."
Fister is also fun to watch when he is on because his tempo is so quick. There is very little wasted time between pitches or between at-bats. Even when the Braves got two men on and one out in the first, he managed to keep the pace up and get the next two batters out to end the threat.
"It's his rhythm. He wants to stay in rhythm, so he works fast anyway," Williams said. "And just because somebody gets on, he doesn't want to change that. He's quick to the plate, holds runners effectively, all of those things that you hope your pitchers do. He continues to throw it in the strike zone and change speeds."
Fister laid down two important sacrifices to move baserunners along in the third and seventh innings. It was no coincidence that the Nationals scored two of their three runs in those innings because Fister put those men in scoring position.
"We talked about it a lot, the fact that he can help himself out a lot, win games, stay in games," Williams said. "It just happened that he came up in a couple situations like that tonight and executed. It's important. He takes pride in it. He's a good fielder. He can swing the bat a little bit. He's an effective runner. All of those things contribute to allowing him to go deep in games and trusting the fact that he'll get it done. And he certainly has."
The win Saturday was only the Nationals' second win over the Braves in nine games this season. Does Williams feel the Nats have to be nearly perfect to beat Atlanta?
"I think tonight is an example of execution," Williams said. "We had a man out on second base three times tonight, got three hits. Doug getting the bunts down. Played good defense. I don't know if that's a perfect game, but we were able to execute. That's the way it's got to be every day. The team that does that the best probably has the best chance to win, regardless whether it's the Braves or anybody else. If we can do that, we've got a chance."
Anthony Rendon provided three big hits and two RBIs, continuing his clutch hitting in the series. Ryan Zimmerman added to offense with his first run-scoring base hit of the series. How big was that hit for Zimmerman?
"You know, the one I'm most proud of is the one he hit in the last at-bat," Williams said. "He lined out to left, lined out to right and got a base hit up the middle. He's close. He's seeing it good, he's swinging it good, he's making good contact. The results haven't been there, but I can count a number of times over the last two weeks where he's had an opportunity and lined out. You can't steer it, man. You've just got to hit it. They'll fall eventually."
And Rendon remains hot.
"Anthony did what Anthony does," Williams said. "He hit the ball to the middle of the field tonight, the last one he drove pretty good. But the opportunities that are out there, that single means a lot. Two-run homers are great, too. But the frequency with which that happens is not as great as a single. He drove (Lobaton) in. It's a great night for him, and he's back to hitting the ball low and hard back through the middle, which is a very good sign for him."
Catcher Wilson Ramos crushed a three-run shot in his minor league rehab game for Harrisburg Saturday.
"He felt good. He grounded out, he struck out, he homered," Williams said. "Three at-bats, felt fine. So he'll go again. We are not going to rush him, though. He can't be back until the 26th. We'll see where we are at there."