Doug Fister held his own in Coors Field, giving up just two runs, while Ian Desmond knocked a career-high five hits, including a home run, and the Washington Nationals (54-43) crushed the Colorado Rockies (40-59), 7-2. The Nationals are now alone in first place in the NL East after the Atlanta Braves lost.
From the first pitch, it was clear how extreme Coors Field could be. Every pitch seemed to hang, and routine popups and fly balls went much further than the Nats were used to. More than once, an outfielder would break in only to hold up and take a few steps back before making a catch.
Despite these offense-amplifying effects, neither team managed to score through the game’s first three innings. The Nats had three singles and two walks against Franklin Morales, but could not cash in. Colorado knocked a pair of doubles and a single in the first two innings, but Fister worked around his mistakes to maintain his clean sheet.
Once the fourth inning started, the Nats and Rockies showed why they were in first and last in the NL, respectively. Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a single, and was immediately brought home by Desmond’s 17th home run of the year, putting the Nats ahead 2-0. Up next, Wilson Ramos singled and scored all the way from first on a Danny Espinosa double for a 3-0 lead. Of course, there were still no outs, so Fister attempted to advance Espinosa with a bunt. Morales’s throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag, leaving everyone safe, and a bad pickoff attempt let Espinosa score for a four-run lead.
Fister, finally with some run support, settled in. He led the home half of the fourth off by giving up a walk, but forced a double play and ended up with a 1-2-3 inning. Working around a single in the fifth, he posted another scoreless inning.
As much as he had been in control, the end came quickly for him in the sixth. Although he had yet to reach 80 pitches, he was leaving balls up everywhere, and allowed six of the seven batters he faced in the sixth to reach, driving in two runs. Only a nice outfield 7-4-5 outfield assist to nail Carlos Gonzalez at third prevented it from being a huge inning. Fister got the hook with two outs and was saved by Aaron Barrett, who struck out Brandon Barnes with the bases loaded to preserve the two-run lead.
Fister’s final line had the potential to be great, but merely good is no disappointment at Coors: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
From there, the Nats pulled away against the Colorado bullpen. A walk and two singles, the first of which was Desmond’s fourth hit of the night, drove in another run in the top of the seventh for the Nats, and a wild pitch erased the damage the Rockies had just done. To cap things off, Desmond notched his fifth hit in the ninth and was driven in by Espinosa’s standup triple, bringing the Nats to seven runs scored in three of their four games against the Rockies this year.
With a win in their pocket, the Nats will look to clinch a series win tomorrow in Jordan Zimmermann’s return from injury, and maintain their newfound lead over the Braves.