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Nats extend NLDS with Fister's brilliance vs. Giants

Righty fires seven shutout innings; three-run seventh tops Bumgarner

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals and Giants found themselves in another pitchers' duel in Game 3 on Monday, and this time, it was the Nats who won, 4-1, at AT&T Park to remain alive in the National League Division Series.

Right-hander Doug Fister brought his best to the must-win game, throwing seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out three batters as the Nationals forced a Game 4 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). 

The only time Fister was in serious trouble during his outing was in the second inning, when the Giants had the bases loaded with two outs. But Fister struck out San Francisco starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner to end the threat.

After two innings, Fister had thrown 43 pitches, but he lasted long enough to keep the Nats alive in the series.

"I had to make adjustments after the first couple innings," Fister said. "I was a little -- I guess you could say -- strong, as far as trying to overthrow it. I was getting away from my plan a little bit, and getting the ball up in the zone. Lucky for me, I had great defenders that sacrificed themselves to make great plays."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy came away impressed with how Fister was able to get through seven innings.

"[Fister] commands the ball well, four pitches," Bochy said. "You've got to hopefully take advantage of any chances you get. … He's got very good command. He doesn't beat himself. He doesn't walk guys. … And he was on top of his game."

Like in Game 2, the Nationals were having problems on offense over the first six innings of Game 3. In fact, from the fourth inning of Game 2 through the sixth inning of Game 3, the Nats went 21 innings without scoring a run. That changed in the seventh inning, thanks to Bumgarner.

After Ian Desmond singled to left field and Bryce Harper reached base on a walk, third-base coach Bobby Henley walked over to the next hitter, Wilson Ramos, to inform the catcher that the plan was to bunt. The last time Ramos placed a successful bunt was three years ago, so he was surprised when told how he was to advance the runners.

"Probably tomorrow, I'll go to the cage and I will try to bunt more," Ramos said.

The first two pitches to Ramos were right down the middle for strikes. It was tough for Ramos to offer at those pitches, because one was a slider and the other was a cutter.

"Those are tough pitches to bunt," said Ramos. "If I tried to bunt at those pitches, I would hit a popup."

The bunt sign was still on. Ramos said to himself, "Willie, you have to do it, you have to do it."

On the next pitch, Ramos was waiting for a slider, got a fastball instead, and bunted the ball toward Bumgarner, who fielded the ball on the first-base side of the mound but tried to get Desmond at third base. But Bumgarner threw the ball past third baseman Pablo Sandoval for an error that allowed Desmond and Harper to score.

"At the moment, I helped the team," said Ramos. "I did it well, so I'm glad for that."

"You can't throw the ball away," Bumgarner said. "I screwed it up for us. I thought I had a shot right there. Whether we had a shot or not, I think we still had a shot to get Ramos at first base."

With Ramos on second, Asdrubal Cabrera singled to left field. Even though Ramos is the slowest runner on the team, Henley waved Ramos home.

"Willie had a good jump off the hit," Henley said. "We just wanted to be aggressive. We've been aggressive all year. With a lead, we'll take a shot at it. Willie is fast when he wants to be."

Center fielder Denard Span said somebody in the Nationals' dugout yelled, "Noooooo," as Ramos was heading home.

"There was nobody out and there is risk involved with the guy they have on the mound," Henley said. "It took a while for the ball to get to [left fielder Travis] Ishikawa. Willie is fast enough. I thought there had to be a perfect throw, so I decided to send him home."

And the Nats' catcher made it under the tag of Giants counterpart Buster Posey.

Harper also managed to quiet the San Francisco fans, with his glove and his bat. In the second, Harper made a catch up against the wall in left on Brandon Crawford's long fly ball with two men on and one out. In the seventh, Harper made a great sliding catch on a fly ball by Ishikawa with a runner on first and one out.

"Going out there and being able to deal with that sun a little bit, it's very tough," said Harper. "We have that a little bit in D.C. in center, so really had it all year long. It's definitely tough, trying to battle out there. [I was trying to make] some catches and make some plays, and not let them score and not let them hit."

"Guys are going out there sacrificing, and that was a huge sacrifice for him," said Fister. "He's stretching and catching and rolling on the ground. Those kinds of things, guys are sacrificing for the team aspect, and that's what we're doing."

In the ninth, Harper blasted a 1-1 pitch from right-hander Jean Machi over the right-center-field wall to give Washington a four-run lead, Harper's second home run of the series and his third career postseason homer.

After Fister left the game, right-hander Tyler Clippard shut out the Giants in the eighth, but closer Drew Storen made it interesting in the ninth in a non-save situation.

After Sandoval singled and Hunter Pence doubled to left-center field, Storen told himself, "This is not happening again." It was on Saturday in Game 2 that he allowed the game-tying run to score, and he allowed the Cardinals to come back and win Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.

"I took the emotions out of everything and said, 'Here's what I need to do,'" said Storen. "I made the adjustments."

Storen, relying on the breaking ball and fastball, managed to get Brandon Belt on strikes, then got Crawford to hit a sacrifice fly to Jayson Werth in right field before Ishikawa grounded out to shortstop to end the game.

Manager Matt Williams said his team will be ready for Game 4 on Tuesday.

"We find ourselves in the same position we were in today," Williams said. "If we lose tomorrow, then it's all over. So, you know, we're in the same spot.

"We've got an opportunity to win that game tomorrow. So we have to do things correctly like we did today. We have to play good defense. We have got to execute, if necessary. We know we have to score some runs if we're going to have a chance to do that. That's our objective, and that's our mindset."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Asdrubal Cabrera, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard