Doug Fister tosses 7 scoreless innings to lead Nats over Braves

Nationals starter Doug Fister works the first inning against the Braves.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

 

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams had one question for Doug Fister in the seventh inning with Andrelton Simmons due up and two men on base.

"I asked him if he wanted this man and he said `Yes,’ so I turned around and went back to the dugout," Williams said.

Fister got the out, completing seven shutout innings and leading the Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series between the top teams in the National League East.

Adam LaRoche had two hits, and Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon each drove in a run for Washington, which increased its division lead over Atlanta to eight games.

Atlanta dropped 1 games behind the Pirates for the second NL wild card. Pittsburgh beat the Phillies 6-4.

Protecting a 1-0 lead, Fister (13-6) sandwiched walks to Freddie Freeman and Tommy La Stella around a pair of fly outs in the seventh, bringing Williams to the mound.

"My back was turned when he first walked out, so I wasn’t sure if he’d already pointed, (or) if I had any options, but he came out there and he gave me the option," Fister said. "That’s greatly appreciated. That’s the epitome of showing confidence."

Especially since Fister had lost three straight starts. Monday night, however, he regained the form that made him one of Washington’s most reliable starters.

He allowed two singles and three walks, struck out three and retired 13 of 14 during one stretch.

"I wanted to focus on keeping the ball down, but I wanted to make sure that sinker’s in on right-handers. That’s one of the things I focused on tonight," Fister said.

Drew Storen struck out the side in the ninth for his second save in two days, and Washington improved to 5-9 against Atlanta.

"We’ve struggled all year against the Braves," Storen said. "It’s nothing new to anybody, but for us to go out and play our game — and that’s a tight game that can swing either way — for us to lock that down is really good."

Mike Minor (6-10) allowed two runs and seven hits in six-plus innings for the Braves. He’s pitched into the seventh inning in each of his last six starts.

Freeman singled off Matt Thornton to score pinch-runner Jose Constanza in the eighth, sending Jason Heyward to third. Craig Stammen came on and retired Justin Upton to end the inning.

Atlanta has scored only 16 runs in its past nine games.

"We felt good, to be honest with you, as a group going up to the plate," Jason Heyward said. "I feel like we were just missing barrels, and that’s kind of what (Fister) does."

Braves catcher Evan Gattis (strep throat) was out of the lineup. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Gattis was resting at the team’s hotel and taking antibiotics. He was unsure if Gattis will play in the series.