Williams on Fister, LaRoche, Espinosa and more after Nats’ 7-1 win

The division lead is now the largest it’s been all season, as the Nationals’ 7-1 win over the Mets combined with Atlanta’s loss to the Mariners has given Washington a four-game edge in the National League East.

Doug Fister went 7 1/3 strong innings today, allowing just one run on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts, Adam LaRoche slugged two homers, Danny Espinosa had a three-run shot himself, and the Nats cruised to the win, making Fister 11-3 on the season.

Here’s manager Matt Williams after the game.

On whether Fister has become the team’s ace: “I think all of our starters are good. They’ve all got the ability to go out there and compete and keep us in the game and win games for us. With regard to Doug, he was good once again. Kept them off-balance, threw strikes. Relaxed, certainly, after the first inning when we got some runs and went to work. So he was really good tonight.”

On the Nats avoiding long losing streaks this season: “Quality starting pitching will do that. They’ve got the ability to go out and stop a skid if we get into one. For that matter, if we play really well, we can have an extended good period, too. It’s nice to have those guys that can go out there and be the stopper, if you will. They’re all competing really hard, they’re all pitching well and ready to take the ball every fifth day.”

On Fister’s outing: “The radar gun doesn’t blow up, but he throws the ball where he wants to. Tonight, he was really down in the zone, really down and really on the corners tonight. We got a lot of ground balls, we got a lot of double plays, and that’s kind of what he provides for us - the ability with one pitch to get two outs. And that’s huge.”

On Espinosa’s approach from the right side of the plate: “For me, he just gets on top of the baseball, more from the right side than he does from the left side. Something he works on every day left-handed, but it’s naturally a little more on top of the baseball right-handed. Tonight was a changeup down, not a bad pitch, but he had good length through the swing and was able to get enough of it to get it out. He’s swinging really well, especially from the right side, and tonight, big hit for us.”

laroche-smile-white-high-fives-dugout-sidebar.jpgOn how important it would be to get LaRoche hot again down the stretch: “Yeah, it’s really important. He’s going to continue to hit in the middle of our order. Tonight was a good example of him being on time. Against a lefty, the first homer’s particularly good because it’s lefty-lefty and he was on time on that pitch and got enough of it. We’ve talked about it before, when he’s hitting those lofty fly balls to left field, he’s just a tick off. Tonight, his timing was much better.”

On Matt Thornton’s Nats debut: “Yeah, I wanted to get a look, certainly, and it set up where he could face a couple lefties there. (Daniel Murphy) just continues to get hits, but he was down, hard, and threw a couple of splits. He threw a split to Murph that I think he got the base hit on, and then he threw a split to David (Wright) to ground him out, too. Pretty good weapons, that hard.”

On having two lefties who throw mid-90s in the bullpen now, with Thornton joining Ross Detwiler: “It’s good. We’ve got Jerry (Blevins), too, that’s a little more crafty. Big, slow curveball, cutter and a sinker to go along with it. But yeah, power lefties are a part of every staff nowadays, and we’ve got a couple of them. So that’s good.”

On why Jayson Werth was removed from the game tonight: “Jayson’s got a little shoulder that’s been bothering him a bit. Tonight, he was a little tight in his neck, so rather than risk it in that game, we thought we’d get Steven (Souza) in there. So we’ll see how Jayson is tomorrow, but it’s been a little tight the last week or so.”

On which shoulder it is for Werth: “Right shoulder. It’s from swinging. Took a funky swing about a week ago and it’s been lingering. It’s nothing serious, but if we get a chance to get him out of there, we’ll do that.”

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