Doug Fister


The Nationals have lost six straight, eight of ten and are now under .500


Back in March the Nationals were everyone’s favorites. They had just signed Max Scherzer to a mega deal which put him alongside Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez as perhaps the best rotation in baseball. They had a core of guys with both speed and defensive bonafides in Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Ian Desmond. They had Jayson Werth. They had a healthy Bryce Harper and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman.

They also had, in terms of competition, a Braves team which decided to punt the year and rebuild, a Phillies team which looked like a disaster and Mets and Marlins teams which, while on the upswing, didn’t figure to match the firepower of the Washington Nationals. Simply put, no one in their right mind did anything but pick the Nationals to win the East and win it easily. And they still may win the NL East. There’s a month and a half of baseball to go and anything can happen.

Right now, however, they are looking terrible. They’ve lost six in a row, eight of ten and find themselves at 58-59, four and a half games back of the Mets. Who, by the way, also got swept this weekend, which means the Nats lost a prime opportunity to make up ground. Or, if you’re more of an optimist, saved the Nats from being buried even deeper than they are.

Also, if you’re optimistic, you can say that it was gonna be an ugly road trip to begin with. Yes, they’re 1-6 on the west coast swing and were just shut out for the third time in six games, but those three shutouts came at the hands of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner, who are probably the three best pitchers in the game. And, after an off-day today, they do get to play the Rockies who are no great shakes. We’ll just forget for a moment that the Nats dropped two of three to the Rockies at home last week.

No matter how you want to spin it, the numbers don’t lie and the numbers are pretty ugly. The Nats are 10-20 since the All-Star break. While four and a half games don’t seem like an insurmountable deficit, it becomes harder and harder the longer time goes on. If the Mets play at their current pace the rest of the way the Nats have to go something like 12-games over .500 for the remainder of the season to beat ’em out. And, because the wild card deficit is so big — nine and a half games — there is no margin for error here. Second place means watching the playoffs from home.

Time to get moving, Nats. You have a lot of expectations to live up to and not a lot of time left to do it.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

Ian Kinsler

Tigers 8, Royals 6: Victor Martinez homered twice and drove in five runs, but it was Ian Kinsler’s two-run walkoff homer which ended this one. The Tigers took two of three from division-leading Kansas City and now sit three and a half out in the wild card. It’s highly unlikely they’ll leap over all of the teams ahead of them but, if they manage it, do they get backsies on David Price, or what?

Brewers 10, Padres 1: Khris Davis hit two three-run homers and Matt Garza had no trouble with the Padres lineup, allowing only two hits in seven innings. Davis’ homers came off of Odrisamer Despaigne and Kevin Quackenbush. We should maybe check with the Elias Sports Bureau first, but I’m gonna wager that no batter in MLB history has ever hit two homers in a game off of pitchers with more combined letters in their names than Davis did here.

Astros 5, Athletics 4: Jed Lowrie had a throwing error in the ninth that allowed Oakland to score twice and force extra innings. But then he hit an RBI double off Edward Mujica with two outs in the 10th. Counter Intelligence is going over the video of this to see if the error was truly a mistake and if the double wasn’t just a means of making Houston brass believe he is not an A’s agent planted deep within the Astros organization. Really, when it comes Lowrie, the Astros and the Athletics, it’s hard to know where allegiances truly lie.

Dodgers 10, Phillies 8: You figure if you score six runs on seven hits in six innings off of Zack Greinke — five of which come in the first inning before he retires any of you — that you’re living right. But then your starter gives up seven runs in four innings, including a homer and two other hits to Greinke himself and, nah, you ain’t. Not a pretty game here at all. The six runs Greinke gave up in the first three innings here match the number of runs he gave up in his previous nine starts combined. But hey, a win.

Cardinals 3, Reds 0: Michael Wacha and three relievers combine to shut out the Reds. St. Louis held Cincy scoreless for the last 18 innings of this series. Reds starter Michael Lorenzen is 0-5 in his last seven starts.

Nationals 8, Diamondbacks 3: Rookie Joe Ross allowed a run and five hits while striking out seven in six innings and then, after the game, learned that the guy he was replacing in the rotation, Doug Fister, was being demoted to the bullpen. Bryce Harper reached base all three times he came to the plate and scored twice. His line on the year: .334/.461/.666. Hail Satan.

Braves 9, Marlins 8: Andrew McKirahan got his first career win and Arodys Vizcaino got his first career save. Both of them served 80-game suspensions for PEDs this year. Hail Hydra.

Yankees 2, Red Sox 1: The second 2-1 game between these two. If it wasn’t for that ugly 13-3 thing on Tuesday this series would probably challenge for the lowest-scoring Yankees-Red Sox series in recent history. As it was, CC Sabathia actually pitched well, allowing one run in six innings, A-Rod doubled in a run and Jacoby Ellsbury homered to put the Yankees ahead for good. Now New York faces a big series against the Jays this weekend.

Blue Jays 9, Twins 3: Mark Buehrle won — it was his 30th win against Minnesota in his career — and Edwin Encarnacion went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and scored twice. Also hit his 250th career homer. The Jays complete a four-game sweep of Minnesota, knocking the fading Twins back to .500 and putting them behind both the Rangers and the Orioles for the second wild card slot. Seems like the Cinderella phase of Minnesota’s season is over. Three games in the Bronx for Toronto now.

Cubs 5, Giants 4: The Cubs win their seventh of eight thanks to a Kyle Schwarber three- run homer and a Jorge Soler bases-loaded single. Jason Hammel was kinda miffed after the game that Joe Maddon pulled him in the fifth inning when he was in trouble, but they said afterward they’re on the same page. I’m assuming Maddon and him “rapped it out,” as the cool kids said and then were all copacetic. Joe Maddon is hip and knows how to talk to today’s youth.

Nationals move struggling Doug Fister to bullpen, will keep Joe Ross in rotation


With Stephen Strasburg due to come back from the disabled list on Saturday against the Rockies, Mark Zuckerman of reports that the Nationals have decided to move the struggling Doug Fister to the bullpen while keeping rookie Joe Ross in the starting rotation.

Fister finished eighth in the balloting for the 2014 NL Cy Young Award after posting a 2.41 in 25 starts, but he hasn’t looked anything like that pitcher so far this season. The 31-year-old has a 4.60 ERA through 15 starts and has already allowed as many earned runs as he did all last year. He missed some time during the first half with a flexor strain in his elbow and has shown diminished velocity, so the Nationals can’t afford to keep running him out there every fifth day as they try to keep pace with the first-place Mets in the National League East.

The decision was handed down after Ross had another strong start this afternoon against the Diamondbacks, tossing six innings of one-run ball while striking out seven batters and walking none. The 22-year-old rookie owns an impressive 2.80 ERA and 47/4 K/BB ratio in 45 innings and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven of his starts. He has already thrown 121 innings this season between the majors and the minors, essentially matching his career-high workload from last year, so a potential shutdown has been discussed. However, he’s deserving of getting a longer look.