So much that happened during Sunday’s wild 6-5 walkoff win over the Pirates, which extended the Nationals’ season-best six-game winning streak, couldn’t be detailed in the paper game story. Below are a handful of leftover observations about Doug Fister’s resolve, Kevin Frandsen’s impact and Asdrubal Cabrera’s slick double play.
>>> Fister’s ability to hold the Pirates to two runs in the sixth inning maybe have been perhaps the most overlooked part of the win. After the Pirates took a 2-0 lead following two defensive miscues and an infield single, Fister gave up a single to Pedro Alvarez and had the bases loaded with no outs. Fister buckled down and found a way to wriggle out somehow.
He got a weak grounder back to the mound from Starling Marte. Fister’s throw to catcher Wilson Ramos was high but he caught it for a force out. Fister got another weak grounder, this time from Travis Snider, to Adam LaRoche, who threw home for another force out. Fister then escaped the inning by getting Ike Davis to fly out to right. He stopped a horrible situation from turning much worse.
“I think [Sunday] was a tribute to just the team mentality in general,” Fister said. “That’s a lesson learned for us, knowing that [if] something goes wrong, there’s 24 guys right behind you that pick you up. Whether it’s offense, whether it’s defense, guys are playing well together.”
After his night was over in the bottom of the seventh, Fister’s ERA was trimmed to 2.20, which would be the fifth best in baseball if he qualified. He also hasn’t allowed an earned run in 22 1/3 innings.
“Doug keeping it to two in that inning is really important,” Manager Matt Williams said. “That inning could’ve blown up, and he didn’t allow that. So that’s a key moment in the game, as well.”
>>> Another seemingly minor play that helped change Sunday’s game: Frandsen scoring from second on a wild throw home Pirates first baseman Ike Davis in the seventh inning and tying the score.
With the bases loaded and one out, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle swapped out starter Edinson Volquez for right-handed reliever Jared Hughes. Cabrera hit a ground ball to Davis, who fired home. The throw was high and catcher Martin got a glove on it but couldn’t catch it. Taylor scored easily. The ball rolled away from Martin and up the third base line.
Frandsen steamrolled around third base and kept going home, passing the ball by mere feet on his way home. He knew he could slide home head-first and avoid any tag, and Martin didn’t even attempt a throw. Frandsen jumped to his feet after scoring, yelled and pumped his fists.
Frandsen is hitting only .249, but his versatility, ability to be ready at a moment’s notice, and knack for finding ways to contribute, from baserunning to providing a timely hit, has been key for the Nationals.
>>> Cabrera and Matt Thornton, the most recent additions, have made an impact already. Thornton cleaned up Rafael Soriano’s jam in the ninth inning and has five scoreless outings, allowing only three base runners in his first 4 1/3 innings as a National.
Cabrera tied the game in the ninth inning on Sunday with an RBI single. He also started a preposterous double play in the eighth inning, one of the Nationals’ most memorable defensive plays of the season so far. With one on and no outs, Tyler Clippard got Martin to hit a ground ball to the right of second base.
Cabrera ran to his right and leaned over to snag the ball. As his momentum carried him away from second base, he grabbed the ball out of his glove hand and flipped it behind his back. Ian Desmond caught the low ball and fired to first base to complete the double play. The Nationals Park crowd understandably went nuts.
>>> The Nationals have the best winning percentage (.566), best run differential (+92) and biggest division lead (6 games) in the National League.