PHOENIX -- Two-run singles by Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore in the top of the ninth inning helped the Nationals defeat the D-backs, 5-1, at Chase Field on Wednesday afternoon. The Nats ended up taking two out of three games in the series and improved their record to 21-19.
"We needed this one. It salvaged the road trip. It started off really bad for us [against the Athletics]," manager Matt Williams said. "Then we won the first game [of the series in Arizona]. It's nice to get this one to go home on a positive note with an off-day. So the guys can get some rest."
The score was tied at 1 when Washington scored the four runs in the ninth off reliever Brad Ziegler. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Desmond swung at the first pitch and singled to left field, scoring Denard Span and Anthony Rendon. It ended a scoreless streak for Ziegler at 18 1/3 innings.
"[Ziegler] had some really good numbers over the last few years. He has been effective," Desmond said. "I wanted to make sure that I got something up in the zone. Pretty much beyond that, I let the hands work."
Williams is familiar with Ziegler, having watched him the previous two-plus seasons with the D-backs.
"[Scoring doesn't] happen very often on him," Williams said. "He has a miniscule ERA for a reason. He is tough, especially against right-handers, but we were able to stay on a couple baseballs off him."
After Danny Espinosa grounded out to put runners at second and third, Moore singled to left field, scoring Jayson Werth and Desmond.
"The pressure was off me because Desi had such a big hit," Moore said. "I was going in trying to be small, not doing too much. I know the infield was playing in. I was trying to get a ball to the outfield. Ziegler was trying to get me to hit a ground ball to the infield."
It was a game in which the Nats had to be encouraged by Doug Fister's performance on the mound. He was dealing on this day, but ended up with a no-decision. It was much better than the outing he had last Friday, in which the righty pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs -- five earned -- against the Athletics. This time, Fister went seven innings and allowed one run on five hits. The bottom line was Fister kept the ball down with his sinker.
"He had good stuff," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He was changing speeds. He's got a really good sinker and he was throwing it to both sides of the plate. He started going to his offspeed stuff later in the game, and he just had us off balance. He threw a good game."
Fister will be the first to say he wasn't perfect on the mound, but he was pleased to get into a good rhythm with catcher Jose Lobaton.
"[Lobaton] did a great job back there today, and the defense worked. That's the name of the game," Fister said. "It's a matter of executing and getting out there -- same mindset, same game plan, same preparation. It's a matter of going out there."
The one run off Fister came in the fourth inning when Aaron Hill swung at a 3-0 pitch and homered over the left-field wall.
D-backs right-hander Brandon McCarthy also cruised, retiring the first 12 hitters he faced and allowing two hits in eight innings. One of those hits ended up tying the game in the top of the seventh inning, when Werth went deep for his fifth home run of the season.
To the Nationals, McCarthy's velocity was better than what they saw last year. His sinker was clocked at 93-94 mph.
"He was throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead. His ball was really moving," Werth said. "I got into a 2-0 count, he threw me a cutter. He was trying to throw a strike there, I was ready to hit and I barreled it."
It ended up being Washington's 12th comeback victory of the season, and all things considered, Werth is satisfied how the Nationals are playing this year.
"We're playing tough, we're missing some guys," Werth said. "Everyone has been kind of down on us, negative about how our season has gone, but I'm not."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.