Looking to climb up the competitive National League Central standings, the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.
The Nationals improved to 30-28 and sit in third place, just a game back of the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins who remain tied for the division lead.
The Phillies, meanwhile, fall deeper into the basement with a 24-34 record — seven games out of first place.
Washington has had to deal with nagging injuries in their starting lineup all season. Star outfielder Bryce Harper remains sidelined until at least mid-June. First baseman Adam LaRoche returned from his DL stint a few weeks ago. The veteran is the team's best batter, leading in batting average (.311), on-base percentage (.428) and slugging percentage (.925).
The team's staff ace entering the season remains on the disabled list. Gio Gonzalez went down from a left shoulder injury and remains out of the rotation. Gonzalez struggled to start the season, though, with a 3-4 record 4.35 earned run average.
Emerging to not only fill in for Gonzalez, but to lead the Nats' pitcher is Doug Fister.
The 30-year old is playing in his first National League season. He was previously drafted by the Seattle Mariners and played two seasons for the Detroit Tigers before being trade to Washington for utility player Steve Lombardozzi and pitchers Robbie Ray and Steve Krol.
Fister is 4-1 on the year with a 3.19 ERA. He has recorded 28 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched. Additionally, he has only walked two batters. Fister's 0.92 WHIP is fifth in the NL and his .214 batting against average is ninth in the league.
He doesn't fully qualify among the stat leaders, though. Fister has only made six pitching appearances. He, too, has spent some time on the disabled list to begin the season. He suffered a torn lat muscle on his right side during spring training and didn't make his first start until mid-May.
In Thursday's 4-2 win over Philadelphia, Fister tossed seven innings and only allowed two runs on four hits.
The Nationals now begin a 10-game road trip, facing the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.
It's a great opportunity for Washington to continue their quest for early-season positioning in the division and for Fister to show he's fully healed and among the majors league's elite pitchers.
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