WASHINGTON — Doug Fister did the splits while covering first base and reached backward to make a how-did-he-do-that stab of a grounder while on the mound, adding a bit of gymnastics to another pinpoint outing.
No one can accuse the 6-foot-8 righty of being either ungainly or inaccurate. He won his fourth straight start Thursday, another walk-free outing of seven innings with just two runs and four hits allowed as the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 to complete a three-game sweep.
Fister (4-1) struggled in the Nationals debut last month after missing all of April with a lat strain. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a game since. In six starts, he’s walked only two batters.
“I’d rather them earn it,” he said, “than give it away.”
And earning it is that much harder with a pitcher as flexible as Fister. The college first baseman did a full split while not quite hanging on to a throw to first that would have completed a double play in the first inning.
“Yeah, that’s not comfortable,” Washington manager Matt Williams said.
For the player or the manager?
“For both,” Williams said.
Then there was the play in the third inning, when Fister flipped himself around to rob Ben Revere of a hit up the middle — a play that proved more valuable when Jimmy Rollins followed immediately with a double.
“He’s a cat out there on the mound,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “He’s getting everything.”
Sounds like he’s the team’s unofficial “pepper” champ.
“I try to do a lot of work with groundballs up the middle and try to work on reaction time,” Fister said. “Being able to field my position is something I take a lot of pride in.”
Fister’s start is the latest in what’s starting to look like the tough-act-to-follow rotation expected from the Nationals this season. Jordan Zimmermann threw eight scoreless innings in the series opener Tuesday, and Stephen Strasburg fanned 11 in Wednesday’s win.
Overall, the Nationals have won five of six. They have out-scored opponents 38-12 in those half-dozen games, including 19-6 in each of the three-game series against the Texas Rangers and the Phillies. Now comes a 10-game road trip to San Diego, San Francisco and St. Louis.
“We have a really hard road trip coming up against some really good teams,” Williams said. “Without going too far, we’re happy with where we’re at it right now and the way it’s gone. We have to continue to push.”
It would be easier if they could keep playing the Phillies, who have lost six straight, are an NL-worst 9-20 since May 5. A team meeting on Tuesday yielded nothing productive, and Rollins can already envision a possible lost season in which key players are traded away.
“It’s getting out of control now,” Rollins said. “We’ve got a chance to go out there and change that tomorrow. If not, then that’s a decision they’re going to make either way. But we’d like to put a streak together going the other direction. Be up in that left column, and find a way to win some games.”
Kyle Kendrick (1-6) allowed four runs over seven innings and walked a season-high five. He is 1-11 in his last 19 starts, has an 11-start winless streak on the road and hasn’t won a day game since 2012, going 0-6 in his last nine starts in the sunshine.
But the problems are team-wide. The Phillies are batting .224 over their last 29 games.
“It’s been time to straighten it out,” Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg said.
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