Doug Fister "felt a lot better" in return, but Nats fall 5-3 to Rays

Despite the 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Nationals starter Doug Fister felt pretty good about his return from the disabled list and first game since May 14. Fister had been on the disabled list with a right forearm flexor tendon strain.

fister-set-night-far.jpg"I felt a lot better," Fister said. "Obviously, it's a work in progress. I mean, I keep saying that, but that's exactly what it is. I've kind of gone back to some of my base and my roots and trying to get back to doing what I do best and that's go with some contact. You really have to build up to it, and any time you change mechanics or change your approach, you do have to take a little bit of time and kind of rebuild and take a little time and build up to midseason strength."

Manager Matt Williams agreed, saying Fister kept the score down until the sixth when the Rays notched four hits from the first five hitters of the inning. Joey Butler started it off with a solo shot. Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe then added back-to-back singles. After a groundout that stopped Longoria at third, Asdrubal Cabrera's single ended with a throwing error and injury to right fielder Bryce Harper.

Two runs scored and suddenly the Rays had scored four unanswered runs to turn the game upside down. A 3-1 Nats lead was now a 5-3 deficit.

"(Fister) was fine until the last inning, and then the play unfolded in right," Williams said. "Other than that, I thought he battled when he went out there, threw strikes."

Fister finished 5 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits, five runs (all earned), no walks and three strikeouts.

"I'm pleased with where I am at at this point," Fister said. "Obviously, it didn't go our way tonight, but looking at it objectively, we've got some things I can come in tomorrow and work on."

Fister is a student of the game, one of the many reasons why he is so successful at his craft. Following his departure in the sixth, he went back to the video room and studied his start in pictures. He felt good with the way his body looked in his delivery with each pitch.

"There was a couple of photos I saw afterwards and the position my body was in and staying back over the rubber, being able to use my legs and let my arm work freely," Fister said. "Those are very big keys for me and something like that, that's something that pleases me. Obviously, we still have some work to do, I've still got to get to 100, 110 pitches but it's something to work off of, it's a step in the right direction."

Fister left the game in mid-May in San Diego with a right forearm flexor tendon strain. The injury was a result of how he had altered his delivery to take pressure off his arm to mask the pain.

"Before the injury I was really getting topheavy and kind of leaning over my front leg too much and not using my legs at all," Fister explained. "All the stress was on my forearm and everywhere else. This allows me to really kind of get back into my legs and use some of my height as deception. Tonight it seemed to feel a little bit better."

In the big picture, suddenly the Nationals have lost 14 of 20 games. When Fister (2-3) went on the DL in May, the Nationals had won 12 of 15. So what is a solution to the team's current skid?

"I think it's one hit away, one good inning pitched away," Fister said. "That's all it takes is one. That's the great thing about this game. It's contagious. Hitting is contagious, pitching is contagious. And you get on a little bit of a roll, you get a little momentum, and guys really start to play together and play well. So we just need a little bit of rhythm and we'll be fine."

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