SAN FRANCISCO - Win or pack your bags, head home and prepare for a long offseason. That’s the situation the Nationals found themselves in today, trailing the Giants two games to none in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
Doug Fister chose to stay in San Francisco another day.
The right-hander took the mound at AT&T Park in a do-or-die game and did what he did 16 other times this season: win.
“Doug pitched great,” manager Matt Williams said. “He was in command all day with everything. You know, he just continues to compete for us, and we were able to manufacture something there.”
Fister admittedly had to battle adrenalin in the early innings. He surrendered three walks in the game, two of which came in the second inning.
“I had to make adjustments after the first couple innings,” Fister said. “I was a little, I guess you could say, strong as far as trying to overthrow it. I was getting away from my plan a little bit and getting the ball up in the zone. Lucky for me, I had great defenders that sacrificed themselves to make great plays. ...
“I was a little amped up. I had some energy and trying to harness that and focus. I was focused, but I really had to pay attention to find focus today.”
Fister, whose hometown is in Merced, Calif., also faced another distraction beyond the big stage: His family and friends came to watch him pitch.
“It’s definitely, again, one of those outside influences that I have to kind of block out being that I do have a lot of family and friends here,” Fister said. “It is close to home, but it’s something that once I’m on the mound, it’s the same thing. I’ve got to go out there and just make sure that everything is the same as the regular season and that’s the main focus for me.”
Fister ended his afternoon after seven innings, surrendering no runs, striking out three and allowing just four hits. He threw 99 pitches, 64 for strikes. Although Fister was pitching on 10 days’ rest, Williams said he saw no signs of rust.
“I thought he was throwing it where he wanted to throw it,” Williams said. “I don’t think he was missing. If he was missing, it was just by a little bit. I thought he had good command all day.
“The fact that he was able to get deep in the game is kind of indicative of him having his command. Yeah, he was fine. I didn’t see anything other than him being perfectly comfortable out there from the first inning on.”
After the seventh inning, Fister turned the ball over to Tyler Clippard, who pitched a hitless eighth inning. Clippard thought Fister was his usual dependable self.
“He was Doug. He was the guy who we’ve come to know all year long,” Clippard said. “Pounding the zone, mixing it up. He was fun to watch. He incorporated a lot of fastballs early and then started throwing the breaking ball late. They never were comfortable in the box against him. He pitched great.”
After Clippard, Williams summoned Drew Storen, who got into some trouble in the ninth - giving up a leadoff single and double - before settling down. Storen struck out Brandon Belt, got Brandon Crawford to hit a sac fly and then induced a Travis Ishikawa groundout to end the game.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy also had words of praise for the Nationals’ starter after the Nats earned their first win in the NLDS.
“He’s won 16 games for a reason,” Bochy said of Fister. “Commands the ball well, four pitches. ... He’s got very good command. Doesn’t beat himself. Doesn’t walk guys. Heels runners. And he was on top of his game.”
Tomorrow, the Nationals will once again play in an elimination game, sending out their lone lefty starter in hopes to keep their season alive.
Gio Gonzalez pitched to a 2.03 ERA over his last four starts of the season. His command has also been better, as he’s allowed just three walks over his last four starts, spanning 26 2/3 innings.
“Well, over the last six weeks, he’s given us really good pitching performances,” Williams said of Gonzalez. “His numbers the last month of the season, especially his last four starts, were fantastic. ... So hope for more of the same tomorrow.”