CINCINNATI — The slumping Cincinnati Reds were no match for a record-setting Doug Fister.
The rolling right-hander took advantage of facing the Reds to extend the best season-opening start by any Washington pitcher in a 4-2 Nationals’ win Sunday.
Fister (10-2) allowed just three hits with one walk — he has walked more than one batter in just three of his last 17 starts dating back to last season — and five strikeouts in seven shutout innings to reach 10 wins in 14 starts, one fewer than any previous Washington pitcher. Gio Gonzalez reached 10 wins in 15 starts in 2012, and Jordan Zimmermann duplicated him last season. The Nationals moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005.
“Defense was the biggest thing,” said Fister, who has won his last four starts and is 5-0 in six starts since his last loss. “Everybody was playing defense and giving everything they had. That’s why we’re playing well together.”
Fister’s changeup was his biggest weapon, Washington manager Matt Williams said.
“He was throwing it to right-handers and left-handers,” Williams said. “He was really good. (The Reds) throw pretty good starting pitching against you. We were fortunate to take two out of three.”
Adam LaRoche drove in two runs and Anthony Rendon added an RBI single in the ninth to help send the Reds to their eighth loss in nine games since the All-Star break. They are hitting .178 (50-for-281) in that span.
Devin Mesoraco’s two-run double in the ninth — the only extra-base hit of the game for either team — off Rafael Soriano allowed the Reds to avoid their 11th shutout loss. Soriano regrouped to get the final three outs for his 200th career save and 25th of the season.
Reds manager Bryan Price keeps waiting for his team to take early leads and put pressure on the opponent.
“What it comes down to is we didn’t score many runs,” he said. “We have to get better at that. Guys are trying but aren’t getting anything out of their effort. You can’t wait until the ninth inning. We have to get more runners on base.”
The teams went the entire three-game series without hitting a home run, the first time in the 12-year history of Great American Ball Park that three consecutive games have been played without a home run. The Reds and Nationals combined to hit just two home runs in their six games this season — one by each team.
“It’s never easy here,” Williams said. “This ballpark’s a lot like Colorado. Things were a little different this weekend. The wind was blowing in. There were a couple of balls that were hit well and would usually have gone out.”
Reds’ starter Mat Latos allowed no hits through the first four innings before Danny Espinosa led off the fifth with a clean single. Fister sacrificed Espinosa to second with one out and Latos walked Denard Span and hit Anthony Rendon to load the bases. Jayson Werth walked to drive in a run after falling behind 0-2 and LaRoche followed with a two-run single for a 3-0 lead.
“You can’t give in in that situation,” Werth said. “He jumped ahead of me pretty good.”
Latos and plate umpire Toby Basner exchanged words as the Reds left the field after the inning.
“I started to pitch (poorly),” Latos said. “I let a couple of things get to me that shouldn’t have. The walk to Werth was what bothered me. There were some pitches that were close. (Basner) was inconsistent behind the dish. I gave too much credit to some of their hitters. I hung a curve on an 0-2 pitch to a .200 hitter. Then the whole inning went (badly). That’s what you get when you pitch (poorly).”
Latos (2-3), in his eighth start after opening the season on the disabled list with elbow and knee problems, lasted six innings, giving up three hits and three runs with four walks and a season-high six strikeouts.
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