The Nationals take on the Mets on Tuesday night in New York. Thanks to the Braves’ loss on Monday night, the Nationals carry a four-game NL East lead with a chance to make it more against an improved but still building Mets team. The Nationals will send Doug Fister to the mound, one of the surest things for them this season.

Over the past three-plus months, Fister has displayed the traits that made him one of the most consistent and underrated starters in baseball in recent years. Although his season didn’t start until May, he is tied for the team lead in wins (11) and has the best ERA (2.49) in the rotation. The Nationals are 12-4 in games he has started.

But it’s also the secondary traits that make Fister impressive. In 104 2/3 innings, he has walked only 13. In fact, Fister has induced nearly as many double plays (10). His 1.07 WHIP would be tied with Corey Kluber and just ahead of Julio Teheran if he qualified among league leaders.

Fister is also averaging 6.5 innings per start, 24th best in baseball, and best on the Nationals. He averages 3.75 pitches per plate appearance, tied with Tanner Roark, but behind Jordan Zimmermann, one of the most efficient pitchers in baseball. He throws strikes 67.6 percent of the time, the 11th best mark in baseball. Because of the strength of his stuff and his ability to command it, opponents take 30.7 percent of Fister’s strikes, 13th best in baseball.

Just as impressive as all of the above, opponents have attempted only one stolen base on Fister. For a man of his size, he would seem like an ideal pitcher to nab a base on. But because his delivery is so quick and he is so conscious of base runners, opponents have attempted only one stolen base on him this season and it was unsuccessful. That’s Mark Buehrle territory. He also spends only 19 seconds in between pitches, the fourth fastest in baseball, a quality that helps keep the Nationals’ defense alert.

For now, the Nationals have reaped the rewards of the offseason trade with the Tigers for Fister. Evaluating the trade for Fister now is admittedly arbitrary, but he has made a significant contribution already. Oddly enough, Robbie Ray, the left-handed starting prospect at the center of the trade, is also slated to start on Tuesday for Detroit with Anibal Sanchez landing on the disabled list. In four previous major league starts, he has a 4.70 ERA, and has a 3.72 ERA at Class AAA Toledo. Reliever Ian Krol, who had a 4.65 ERA in the majors, was also recalled from Toledo. Steve Lombardozzi, who was later traded to Baltimore, has a .284/.325/.645 slash line at Class AAA Norfolk.


The Nationals leave Atlanta feeling pretty good, despite losing two of three games.


Leftover observations from the Nationals’ weekend in Atlanta

The Nationals’ second-half hitters


Charlotte 9, Syracuse 3: Taylor Hill allowed seven runs on eight hits over four innings. Daniel Stange fired two scoreless innings. Aaron Barrett tossed a scoreless inning and has yet to allow a run over 3 2/3 innings since he was optioned to Syracuse. Will Rhymes homered.

Harrisburg was off.

Potomac was off.

Hagerstown 13, Delmarva 7: Lucas Giolito earned his ninth win by striking out six and allowing only two hits over five innings. Andrew Cooper allowed six runs in relief. Rafael Bautista went 3 for 5 with a homer. Wilmer Difo went 5 for 6 with two RBI. Carlos Lopez drove in four runs, including a homer. Wilman Rodriguez hit a three-run shot.

Vermont 6, Auburn 2: Travis Ott struck out five over five innings. David Ramos blew the save and allowed two runs. Robert Orlan allowed three runs, only two earned. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz went 2 for 4.