WASHINGTON — Doug Fister pitched seven shutout innings, leading the Washington Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series between the top teams in the NL East.
Adam LaRoche had two hits, and Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon each drove in a run for Washington, which increased its division lead over Atlanta to eight games.
Atlanta began play trailing the Pirates by a half-game for the second NL wild card.
Fister (13-6) had lost three straight starts, but Monday night he regained the form that made him one of Washington's most reliable starters.
He allowed two singles and three walks, struck out three and retired 13 of 14 during one stretch.
Drew Storen struck out the side in the ninth for his second save in two days.
Mike Minor (6-10) allowed two runs and seven hits in six-plus innings for the Braves.
Atlanta's Freddie Freeman singled off Matt Thornton to score pinch-runner Jose Constanza in the eighth, sending Jason Heyward to third. Craig Stammen came on and retired Justin Upton to end the inning.
Protecting a 1-0 lead, Fister sandwiched walks to Freeman and Tommy La Stella around a pair of fly outs in the seventh. Manager Matt Williams visited the mound, and Fister then got Andrelton Simmons to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
Atlanta has scored just 16 runs in its last nine games.
The Nationals nicked Minor for three singles in the first, with Desmond's base hit scoring Rendon to make it 1-0.
Washington added a run in the seventh. With one out and the bases loaded, Rendon grounded to La Stella at second. La Stella bobbled the ball just briefly and Rendon beat Simmons' relay throw to first, enabling pinch-runner Jeff Kobermus to score the second Nationals run.
Braves: C Evan Gattis (strep throat) was out of the lineup. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Gattis was resting at the team's hotel and taking antibiotics. He was unsure if Gattis will play in the series.
Nationals: Williams said 3B Ryan Zimmerman (right hamstring strain) has been doing some running and agility drills as part of his rehab. "The next step will be ramping that up and getting on the base paths," Williams said. "When that will be, I don't know. But, I think he's fairly close to being able to do that." Zimmerman hopes to return before the regular season ends.
Braves: RHP Ervin Santana (14-7, 3.61) makes his third 2014 start against the Nationals Tuesday. He's 1-1 with 5.25 ERA against them, allowing seven runs over 12 innings.
Nationals: The Nationals haven't scored while RHP Jordan Zimmermann (10-5, 2.93) has been in the game during his two starts against Atlanta this season. He's 0-1 despite allowing only three runs in 12 innings.