The current turn through Washington's rotation has been impressive. Now that Bryce Harper is back in the lineup, the Nationals' offense is heating up, too.
Doug Fister has been a big part of Washington's recent success at home and will try to help the club to a three-game sweep of the struggling Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.The Nationals (45-38) have gone 11-3 with a 2.22 ERA at home in their last 14, including three victories credited to Fister (6-2, 2.83 ERA). They've also gotten a big boost this week with the return of Harper, who missed 57 games with a torn thumb ligament.Harper came off the disabled list Monday and seems to have had an immediate impact. While he's gone just 2 for 8 with one run and one RBI, his presence has added a new dimension to how opposing pitchers approach Washington's lineup.The Nationals have responded to their young slugger's return by pounding out 19 hits and scoring 14 runs in the first two games against the Rockies (36-48), who have dropped 13 of 15 following Tuesday's 7-1 loss.Jayson Werth doubled twice and drove in three runs and Anthony Rendon added a two-run double for Washington, which remained a half-game behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East."Obviously, we had people out all year. We had a pretty good team, even with those people out," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman told MLB's official website. "So to have everyone back, obviously, it's a longer lineup, tougher to pitch against. We have to start getting hits and do the right thing."The offseason acquisition of Fister, who missed the first five weeks with a strained lat muscle, further solidified a rotation that already featured Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.Those three were outstanding in their most recent starts, combining to pitch 20 2/3 innings with 14 hits and two earned runs allowed to go with 20 strikeouts.Strasburg was the most recent to dominate, working 7 2/3 innings with an unearned run allowed and eight strikeouts Tuesday.Now the ball will go to Fister, who has gone 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his last three outings. The right-hander, though, has been at his best at Nationals Park, winning all four starts there with a 1.93 ERA.He pitched six innings against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, allowing three runs and not getting a decision in a 5-4 loss.Fister has faced the Rockies once, tossing six scoreless innings with six strikeouts in a 4-1 win for Detroit on June 16, 2012.Opposing Fister will be Tyler Matzek (1-2, 4.24), who won his major league debut June 11 with seven solid innings against Atlanta but has gone 0-2 with a 4.96 ERA in three starts since. The left-hander, though, gave up one run over six innings and didn't receive a decision in a 3-2 loss at Milwaukee on Friday.It was a rare solid pitching performance for Colorado, which has gotten a 7.83 ERA from its starters in the last 15 games and has a 4.96 overall mark on the season -- worst in baseball."Every day you can't worry about what happened yesterday," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "You're not going to change it. If you start thinking that way, that's when you get in trouble."With Tuesday's game being the Rockies' 12th in a stretch of playing 20 consecutive days, manager Walt Weiss rested shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Charlie Blackmon. Both are expected to play Wednesday.
Ian Desmond (WSH) hit his 15th HR of the season, his 3rd straight season with at least 15 homers.
All other shortstops in franchise history have just TWO 15-HR seasons (Orlando Cabrera in 2003 and Wil Cordero in 1994).