If someone had told you that the Nationals were going to go to Cincinnati, fail to hit a home run over three games and run into outs like 2007 Nook Logan (still my favorite Charlie Slowes call of all time), would you have expected two wins in a three-game series?
Luckily, seven shutout innings by right-hander Doug Fister on Sunday bailed out the baserunning mistakes of Anthony Rendon (trying to move up on Jayson Werth's grounder in the first after walking and swiping second) and Denard Span (doubled off first on Rendon's lineout in the seventh) and Rafael Soriano bailed out Aaron Barrett in the ninth after he turned a four-run cushion into a nailbiter, recording his 200th career save. Span drew four walks and Adam LaRoche's two-run single in a three-run fifth was the hitting highlight on an afternoon when offense was at a premium.
The Nats won 4-2, taking two of three at a ballpark where they've seen their fair share of heartache and disappointment.
This weekend marked the first time in Great American Ball Park's 12-year, 942-game history that both teams went homerless in three consecutive games. There had been 79 homerless games in the stadium's existence and only four previous instances where there had been no home runs hit over two-game stretches.
Washington leaves Cincinnati in first place in the National League East, and will have no less than a 1 1/2-game lead on second-place Atlanta, which is playing San Diego as I type (the Braves started later than usual so that fans at Turner Field could enjoy watching Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., this afternoon).
Here's reaction from the winning clubhouse:
Nats manager Matt Williams on Fister's performance: "Really good great changeups today, used it to both right-handers and left-handers. Worked ahead. They throw some pretty good starting pitching at you and all of our guys pitched really well in this series. We were fortunate to take two of three here."
Williams on the Nats' third straight game where a starting pitcher went at least seven innings: "Our starters go deep in games. There's been a hiccup or two along the way but they've pitched really well. It just gives us a chance every day to do what we did today: put an inning together and score a couple of runs."
Williams on the Nats making the most of five hits: "We don't have to win by the home run because the guys that are out there, they put quality at-bats together."
Jayson Werth on Fister's performance: "You feel good when Doug's on the mound. He works fast, he throws strikes. He's been one of our best all year. With him out there, when Doug's pitching the way he did today, you feel like you give him a run or two and he's going to hold on to it."
Werth on the homeless series at Great American Ball Park: "I don't think the ball is really flying as well as it could here. But out starters, the whole pitching staff has been doing great. We've just got to keep rolling, keep doing what we've been doing and keep taking days off the calendar."
Soriano on his 200th career save: "I remember the first hundred saves being in Atlanta, being with the Yankees. I be happy for that. ... I started late being a closer, so I try to take every opportunity."
Fister on what made his outing so easy today: "Defense. That's the biggest thing - everyone was playing defense, whether it was Rendon at third or Rochie making a great play at first (or Werth) coming and hustling into the line and catching that one. They're just kind of giving everything they had and that's what we're doing here."
Fister on whether his 10th win is an important personal milestone: "I never look at it like that. Today, the big number for us is Sori has 200 saves. It's stuff like that we look at and have great respect for each other. Those are the highlights for today."
Fister on winning another road series: "Our focus is to go out there and win every series. We want to win every game that we prepare for, but as long a we can win every series, we should be OK."
Update: The Braves beat the Padres, so the Nats' lead is 1 1/2 games in the NL East