WASHINGTON -- Entering Tuesday's action, Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto was arguably the most dominating pitcher in the National League. He was the ERA and strikeout leader. But it was Doug Fister, making his home debut, who ended up being the dominant pitcher on this day, as the Nationals pounded the Reds, 9-4, at Nationals Park.
It was Fister's second consecutive quality start, as he lasted seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits. At one point during the game, Fister retired 12 consecutive batters. It helped that he felt right at home at Nationals Park.
"It's funny, but it feels like home," said Fister, who spent his first five seasons in the American League. "Everybody makes it such a family atmosphere, especially with the club that we have. It's my first one here. I feel like I've pitched here before. It's a comforting feeling."
Fister is never satisfied with what he has accomplished. There is still room for improvement.
"It's a constant battle for me to keep the ball down -- keeping mainly the sinker down and moving," Fister said. "It's always something that I'm working on. It's not something that I've reached. When I get complacent, it's gets up in the zone, it gets hit pretty hard. It's a focus of mine, and that's how I approach the game."
Fister got off to a slow start, with the Reds taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Todd Frazier.
But it was all Nationals after that. Washington scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead off Cueto in the third inning. With Fister on first base, Denard Span bunted the ball down the third-base line. Third baseman Ramon Santiago grabbed the ball and threw it past Frazier at first base. That allowed Fister to score all the way from first, while Span ended up at third. Span then scored on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon.
In the sixth, Washington sent 11 men to the plate and scored seven runs, six of them off Cueto. Span and Danny Espinosa drove in two runs apiece with a single and double, respectively. Span ended up going 5-for-5 in the contest and raised his batting average 24 points to .263. The five hits tied a career high.
"It's one game, man. I had a good day today. It was my day. I saw the ball well. I have to do it again tomorrow," Span said. "That's what it's all about. Whether I go 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, my mindset the next day is, 'Yesterday is yesterday.' You have to do it again."
Earlier in the day, some members of the local media were wondering whether Span should be a leadoff hitter. He had a .287 on-base percentage entering Tuesday's action.
"When he is going good, he doesn't give an at-bat away," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said about Span. "That's your leadoff guy that sets the rest of the lineup. It makes it tough on the other team."
Cueto lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs (six earned). Tuesday's start was Cueto's shortest outing since Sept. 16, 2013, when pitched five innings against the Astros. The eight runs he allowed were the most he allowed since September 2010 against the Brewers.
"I don't want to bring excuses," Cueto said through an interpreter "[The Nationals] played really well. You know what? I'm human. This is not over yet. I've just gotta keep my head up and keep working. That's all I've gotta do."
Although Cueto had better outings, Werth was still impressed with what he saw from the right hander.
"He is that guy you bank on pitching deep in the game, having good stuff," Werth said. "He has a plan. He knows what he is doing. He is a pro. But we had some good at-bats against him. We grinded him down, later in the game, we got to him. We took advantage of the few mistakes they made."
With the win, the Nationals improved their record to 24-21.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.