May 15, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
Doug Fister warmed up Thursday evening at Petco Park, was ready to take the mound for the bottom of the first inning against the Padres. And then he (along with everyone else from both clubs) was forced to sit around for two hours during a rare San Diego rain delay that began only six pitches into the Nationals’ series opener.
By the time Fister actually took the mound after 9 p.m. local time, he might well have wished the game had simply been postponed, saving him from the frustration that followed.
Fister became the latest member of the Nationals rotation to get roughed up, giving up seven runs and eight hits in only two innings of work during what would end up an 8-3 loss to the Padres.
If you’ve lost track, that’s now four times this season a Nats starter has allowed at least seven runs. And in each case, that starter has failed to complete at least four innings. It happened to Jordan Zimmermann in Boston. It happened to A.J. Cole in his major-league debut in Atlanta. And it has happened to Stephen Strasburg and Fister in a span of three days, with Strasburg getting rocked Tuesday night in Phoenix.
This from a rotation widely touted as the best in baseball.
The Nationals have had their share of dominant pitching performances this season, with starters giving up zero or one run 10 times already in 2015. But the lack of consistency has been surprising, as has the end result of it all.
Nationals starters now own a collective 4.16 ERA, good enough to rank only 17th in baseball, 10th out of 15 NL clubs.
That wasn’t supposed to be the case. This was supposed to be the rotation to end all rotations, the one that featured five potential aces plus a 15-game winner relegated to the bullpen for lack of an available job.
That very well may still end up being the case. Good luck finding anyone to bet against a rotation of Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.
But these too-frequent disastrous starts are a potential problem. They wreak havoc on a bullpen, and certainly the Nationals’ relief corps is begging for a light workload the rest of the weekend before enjoying two days off next week sandwiched around a mini-series against the Yankees.
Everybody’s going to have a clunker of a night on the mound every once in awhile, but so far those clunkers are occurring with more regularity than the Nats would like. As noted above, already four times in 36 games this season a starting pitcher gave up seven or more runs. That happened only seven total times in 2014, and in every one of those cases the starter still managed to go at least four innings.
Perhaps this will be an afterthought by season’s end and the Nationals rotation will yet prove to be among the best in the game.
But before they can even think about that, those five starters need to find a way to put together a lengthy stretch of quality outings and ditch the clunkers altogether.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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