After the Nationals signed Max Scherzer in January, many predicted they would have one of the best starting rotations in recent baseball history. Then the season started and for months everyone not named Max dealt with either injuries or inconsistent results.
That was until this past week. With Doug Fister's seven shutout frames on Thursday against the Braves, the Nationals' starters now have a new franchise record with 41 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. It's the best run for any MLB rotation since the 2008 Cleveland Indians, who had 44 1/3 straight.
"Guys aren't really even paying attention to it," Fister said. "I think that's what makes it great. I really hadn't heard about it. Guys are going out there and taking it one out at a time, one inning at a time."
Scherzer is up next coming off a no-hitter and a one-hit, 16-strikeout performance, arguably the best two-start run in MLB history. And waiting for him is the Philadelphia Phillies, the lowest-scoring offense in baseball. The chances of their streak continuing seem to be very good.
"It's impressive. It just shows how good they are," Ian Desmond said. "On paper, they're good but being out here, if you guys are watching at home, don't take it for granted because this is a really special group of pitchers we have."
"It’s been as good as it gets," Clint Robinson added. "They’re just throwing up zero after zero, night after night and taking the pressure off the offense so we can go out there and put up some runs for them. When they don’t, they can’t win. So, they’re doing their job."
Fister allowed just four hits and a walk through seven scoreless innings on Thursday, his longest start of the 2015 season. That followed eight scoreless by Jordan Zimmermann, five by Stephen Strasburg, seven by Gio Gonzalez and, of course, nine by Scherzer. Rookie Joe Ross began the streak on Friday night by ending his start against Pittsburgh with 5 1/3 scoreless frames.
"I think it's a standard that every day as a starter you're job is to go out there and get 21 outs. Whatever it takes, get your 21 outs and give the club a chance to win," Fister said. "We don't waver from that. We like consistency. I think that's just a standard with all five of us. Whether it's 'you had a good outing, I want to have a good outing,' it's always a standard of let's play good baseball and give ourselves a chance to win."
Fister himself feels he's very close to being in midseason form after missing over a month with a right forearm strain.
"I think I've still got some building I need to do. I wanted to push myself today and skip let me go back out there in the seventh. That's huge for me is being to go back out there and prove to teammates and prove to myself that I can go out there and finish an inning. I hadn't done that this year, so that was a positive note for me personally," he said.
Wilson Ramos caught five of the six games during the Nationals' pitching streak. He was asked after Thursday's game if Scherzer can keep it going on Friday.
He grinned and gave a simple response: "We’ll see what happens."