Sep 26, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcherTanner Roark
(57) and right fielderMichael Taylor
(18) dump a water jug on starting pitcherDoug Fister
(58) after his complete game shut out against the Miami Marlins in game one of a baseball doubleheader at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated Miami Marlins 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Immediately after Saturday’s heartbreaking, 18-inning loss to the Giants in Game 2 of the NLDS, Nationals fans entered a state of utter panic. And rightfully so.
After many predicted the Nationals would cruise through the first two games of the series and run away with the National League playoffs, the team that finished the regular season with the best record in the NL suddenly finds itself trailing 0-2 in a best-of-five series.
Not only are the Nationals facing elimination, but they also lost both games at home and must now win two straight games in San Francisco if they want to bring the NLDS back to Nationals Park for Game 5.
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It also doesn’t help that the Giants will send Madison Bumgarner to the mound this afternoon for Game 3. San Francisco’s ace is coming off a dominant performance in the NL Wild Card game, in which he held the Pirates to just four hits in a complete-game shutout.
Needless to say, things aren’t looking too good for the Nationals. But as dire as the situation might seem, this is exactly why general manager Mike Rizzo traded for Doug Fister last offseason. And with the tall right-hander on the mound, there’s always hope.
When the Nationals got Fister from the Tigers in exchange for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and prospect Robbie Ray, the immediate reaction from fans and pundits alike was that this trade favored the Nationals. As it turned out, they were right.
The Tigers traded Lombardozzi to the Orioles before Opening Day and the utility man has spent most of the season in the minors. In nine big league appearances, Ray had an ERA of 8.16, while Krol lost his spot in the Tigers bullpen and was sent to Triple-A Toledo midway through the year.
Meanwhile, Fister was arguably the best pitcher on the best rotation in baseball.
After missing the first month of the season on the disabled list, Fister turned in the best season of his career, going 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA. The tall right-hander led the Nationals in wins and finished third in the NL in winning percentage (.727), fourth in ERA and fifth in WHIP (1.08).
While Fister was spectacular all year long, the right-hander really turned things on when the Nationals needed him most. Fister went 4-1 with a minuscule 1.87 ERA in the month of September, including a four-game winning streak over his final four starts of the season.
Fister’s phenomenal year culminated in his final start of the regular season, in which he held the Marlins to just three hits while striking out nine in a complete-game shutout.
Needless to say, Fister has been a monumental part of this team all year. And as bad as the situation looks for the Nationals, there’s no pitcher I’d rather have on the mound with the season on the line. The Nationals are fortunate to have a proven veteran like Fister for a game like today’s, especially considering that, had they been in this situation in 2012, they would’ve gone with Edwin Jackson. Boy, how things have changed.
It’s been 10 months since the Nationals acquired Fister from the Tigers. Now, with the team in a must-win situation and their backs against the wall, the trade is looking bigger than ever.
An 0-2 deficit is never easy to overcome, especially on the road. But if any team can do it, it’s the never-say-die Nationals. And if there’s one guy who’s capable of starting something special and helping the team achieve the impossible, it’s Doug Fister.