Ian Desmond, Doug Fister deliver strong performances as Nationals beat D-Backs, 5-1


Washington Nationals' Jayson Werth (28) celebrates with teammates Rafael Soriano, left, and Ian Desmond (20) after Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Diamondbacks. (AP/AP)

The first pitch from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler to Ian Desmond was destined to be hit. The Washington Nationals shortstop, who has struggled through the first quarter of the season, views first-pitch strikes like a child seeing presents under the tree before Christmas: He doesn’t want to wait.

The ninth-inning matchup came with the bases loaded in a 1-1 game. Desmond entered the game hitting .219 and with 45 strikeouts, and side-arming Ziegler hadn’t allowed a run in 19 games. Arizona intentionally walked Jayson Werth, who homered in the seventh to tie things, to get to Desmond. The infield came in.

Ziegler came with a first-pitch fastball over the plate and Desmond laced a hard ground ball through the left side into left field. Two runs scored and the Nationals, uneven and shaky all week, again uncorked their late-game magic potion. Tyler Moore singled in two more runs to account for the 5-1 final margin.

“I wanted to make sure I got something up in the zone and pretty much let the hands work,” Desmond said.

Doug Fister, in just his second start, delivered seven strong innings but didn’t factor in the decision. The win was the Nationals’ 12th comeback victory of the season and capped a 2-4 trip to Oakland and Arizona.

“We needed this one,” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said. “It salvages the road trip. Started off really bad for us.”

Wednesday marked the unofficial first-quarter mark of the Nationals’ season. And through 40 games of the 162-game marathon, the Nationals’ record sits at 21-19, the same mark at this point last season. The Nationals have endured their fair share of injuries to important players, but their play still hasn’t been consistent enough for Williams.

“We’re bobbing,” Williams said Tuesday morning. “It feels like we’re bobbing. We’ll have a good one and then a not-so-good one. We’re just kinda heads above water but we’re bobbing. . . . Everybody says, ‘Oh, we just need to get on a run.’ Yeah, that’s true but we’ve got to have prolonged success to do that in every aspect of the game. To assess the first seven weeks it’s kinda been bobbing along. We need to start swimming at little bit, too.”

In his second start with his new team, Fister offered a glimpse of the pitcher the Nationals thought they were getting when they sent three players to Detroit in December for the right-hander.

Fister, who didn’t debut until Saturday because of elbow soreness and then a strained lat muscle in spring training, induced nine groundouts and three flyouts. He walked none, struck out six and got some awkward swings over seven innings, allowing just one run — a big improvement on his season debut.

“I’m sure he needed that one,” Desmond said. “He did an excellent job of keeping the ball down and used his sinker a lot.”

When Fister ran into trouble, he buckled down. He pitched around a single and error in the second inning with groundouts. He hit a batter in the sixth inning and then got a double play.

“Letting the defense work,” Fister said. “That’s the name of the game.”

The mistake Fister paid for came in the fourth, when he missed high on three straight pitches to Aaron Hill. Needing a strike, he twirled a sinker over the plate, and Hill hammered it hard and far to left field.

The Nationals, for their part, could do little against Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who entered with a 1-6 record and a 5.66 ERA. Of the two hits off McCarthy, Werth was responsible for one big one. In the seventh inning with Washington trailing by a run, Werth smashed McCarthy’s cutter on a line drive into the center field seats to even the score at 1-1.

“He was trying to throw a strike there and I was ready to hit,” Werth said.

Then came the Nationals’ grand finale. Denard Span fell behind against Ziegler 1-2 to start the ninth inning but fouled four pitches off before drawing a leadoff walk. “Great at-bat,” Williams said.

Anthony Rendon then smoked a double to right, putting runners at second and third with no outs . Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson then called for an intentional walk of Werth, bringing up Desmond.

Despite his low offensive numbers this season, Desmond was hitting cleanup and earlier had broken up McCarthy’s perfect game in the fifth inning with an infield single. He has shown signs of improvement during the series, hitting a two-run home run and an RBI triple in the previous games.

In the final inning of the series finale, and the Nationals facing a long trip back to Washington, Desmond delivered the decisive blow.

“He got a good one to hit and hit it,” Williams said “It’s a good feeling for him. I’m glad to see that. It’s a positive thing for him.”

by James Wagner

PHOENIX – The first pitch from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler was meant to be hit by Ian Desmond, preferably on the ground. The Washington Nationals shortstop, who has struggled much of the season, views first-pitch strikes like a child seeing presents on Christmas Day. He yearns for them and doesn’t see any reason to wait.

The ninth inning match-up seemed like a mismatch: Desmond entered the game hitting .219 and with 45 strikeouts, and side-arming Ziegler hadn’t allowed a run in 19 games. The bases were loaded in a 1-1 game, and Ziegler was banking on a double play.

Desmond had other ideas, and laced a single to left, the key hit in a four-run ninth that lifted the Nationals to a 5-1 victory that gave them two of three in the series.

The Nationals tacked on two more runs on a single by Tyler Moore and Rafael Soriano fired a scoreless ninth inning to cap a game in which the Nationals received a strong performance from Doug Fister in his second start of the season. The Nationals’ 12th comeback victory of the season gave them a 2-4 trip to Oakland and Arizona.

Wednesday marked the unofficial first-quarter mark of the Washington Nationals’ season. And through 40 games of 162, the Nationals’ record sits at 21-19, exactly the same mark at this point last season. The Nationals have endured a fair share of injuries to important players, but their play still hasn’t been consistent enough for Manager Matt Williams.

“We’re bobbing,” Williams said before the game. “It feels like we’re bobbing. We’ll have a good one and then a not-so-good one. We’re just kinda heads above water but we’re bobbing. But that’s kinda the way it’s gone. … Everybody says, ‘Oh, we just need to get on a run.’ Yeah, that’s true but we’ve got to have prolonged success to do that in every aspect of the game. To assess the first seven weeks it’s kinda been bobbing along. We need to start swimming at little bit, too.”

In his second start with his new team, Fister offered a glimpse of the pitcher the Nationals thought they were getting when they sent three players to Detroit in December for the right-hander.

Fister, who has missed much of the season with elbow soreness and then a strained lat muscle, kept his sinkers dove down as they neared the plate. He effectively used his secondary pitches – a curveball, cutter and change-up — keeping everything low in the strike zone. He induced nine groundouts and three flyouts. He walked none, struck out six and got some awkward swings over seven strong innings, allowing just one run.

When Fister ran into trouble, he buckled down. He pitched around a single and error in the second inning with groundouts. He hit a batter in the sixth inning and then got a double play.

The mistake Fister paid for came in the fourth, when he missed high on three straight pitches to second baseman Aaron Hill. Needing a strike, he twirled a sinker over the plate, and Hill hammered it hard and far to left field.

The Nationals, on the other hand, could do little against Diamondbacks right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy, who entered the game with a 1-6 record and a 5.66 ERA. Of the two hits off McCarthy, Jayson Werth was responsible for one big one. In the seventh inning and trailing by a run, Werth smashed McCarthy’s cutter on a line drive into the center field seats to even the game at 1-1.

by James Wagner

PHOENIX –

The first pitch from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler to Ian Desmond was destined to be hit. The Washington Nationals shortstop, who has struggled through the first quarter of the season, views first-pitch strikes like a child seeing presents under the tree before Christmas: He doesn’t want to wait.

The ninth-inning matchup came with the bases loaded in a 1-1 game. Desmond entered the game hitting .219 and with 45 strikeouts, and side-arming Ziegler hadn’t allowed a run in 19 games. Arizona intentionally walked Jayson Werth, who homered in the seventh to tie things, to get to Desmond. The infield came in.

Ziegler came with a first-pitch fastball over the plate and Desmond laced a hard ground ball through the left side into left field. Two runs scored and the Nationals, uneven and shaky all week, again uncorked their late-game magic potion. Tyler Moore singled in two more runs to account for the 5-1 final margin.

“I wanted to make sure I got something up in the zone and pretty much let the hands work,” Desmond said.

Doug Fister, in just his second start, delivered seven strong innings but didn’t factor in the decision. The win was the Nationals’ 12th comeback victory of the season and capped a 2-4 trip to Oakland and Arizona.

“We needed this one,” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said. “It salvages the road trip. Started off really bad for us.”

Wednesday marked the unofficial first-quarter mark of the Nationals’ season. And through 40 games of the 162-game marathon, the Nationals’ record sits at 21-19, the same mark at this point last season. The Nationals have endured their fair share of injuries to important players, but their play still hasn’t been consistent enough for Williams.

“We’re bobbing,” Williams said Tuesday morning. “It feels like we’re bobbing. We’ll have a good one and then a not-so-good one. We’re just kinda heads above water but we’re bobbing. . . . Everybody says, ‘Oh, we just need to get on a run.’ Yeah, that’s true but we’ve got to have prolonged success to do that in every aspect of the game. To assess the first seven weeks it’s kinda been bobbing along. We need to start swimming at little bit, too.”

In his second start with his new team, Fister offered a glimpse of the pitcher the Nationals thought they were getting when they sent three players to Detroit in December for the right-hander.

Fister, who didn’t debut until Saturday because of elbow soreness and then a strained lat muscle in spring training, induced nine groundouts and three flyouts. He walked none, struck out six and got some awkward swings over seven innings, allowing just one run — a big improvement on his season debut.

“I’m sure he needed that one,” Desmond said. “He did an excellent job of keeping the ball down and used his sinker a lot.”

When Fister ran into trouble, he buckled down. He pitched around a single and error in the second inning with groundouts. He hit a batter in the sixth inning and then got a double play.

“Letting the defense work,” Fister said. “That’s the name of the game.”

The mistake Fister paid for came in the fourth, when he missed high on three straight pitches to Aaron Hill. Needing a strike, he twirled a sinker over the plate, and Hill hammered it hard and far to left field.

The Nationals, for their part, could do little against Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who entered with a 1-6 record and a 5.66 ERA. Of the two hits off McCarthy, Werth was responsible for one big one. In the seventh inning with Washington trailing by a run, Werth smashed McCarthy’s cutter on a line drive into the center field seats to even the score at 1-1.

“He was trying to throw a strike there and I was ready to hit,” Werth said.

Then came the Nationals’ grand finale. Denard Span fell behind against Ziegler 1-2 to start the ninth inning but fouled four pitches off before drawing a leadoff walk. “Great at-bat,” Williams said.

Anthony Rendon then smoked a double to right, putting runners at second and third with no outs . Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson then called for an intentional walk of Werth, bringing up Desmond.

Despite his low offensive numbers this season, Desmond was hitting cleanup and earlier had broken up McCarthy’s perfect game in the fifth inning with an infield single. He has shown signs of improvement during the series, hitting a two-run home run and an RBI triple in the previous games.

In the final inning of the series finale, and the Nationals facing a long trip back to Washington, Desmond delivered the decisive blow.

“He got a good one to hit and hit it,” Williams said “It’s a good feeling for him. I’m glad to see that. It’s a positive thing for him.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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