The Atlanta Braves had defeated the Washington Nationals through every means baseball makes available, and at the expense of every quadrant of their team. But the Braves had never confronted the force coming at them Saturday night. They had not faced the alpha pitcher from Merced, Calif., who can do the splits, lay down a sac bunt or take apart the front end of ’70 Monte Carlo without the manual. They had not seen 6 feet 8 inches of elbows and knees and sinkers from hell. The Braves had not dealt with Doug Fister.

The Nationals had grown sick and tired of questions about why they could not beat the Braves, and for one night Fister silenced them. He led the Nationals back into first place by throwing eight scorless innings in a 3-0 victory over their divisional nemesis. The Nationals eked out enough offense against Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran as Anthony Rendon went 3 for 4 with two RBI and Ryan Zimmerman added an RBI single. But in his first start against the Braves as a member of the Nationals, Fister carried them.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Fister fired his 117th pitch of the night to Evan Gattis, a bear-sized man on a 20-game hitting streak. He popped it to right field. Fister pointed to the sky and traced the ball’s flight with his index finger. He clapped the inside of his mitt as Jayson Werth squeezed. The crowd rose as Fister marched off the field with his glove on his left hip. As he reached the dugout, Fister lifted his cap.

In the best start of his already sparkling Nationals tenure, Fister allowed five hits and one walk while he struck out three. He induced 12 groundball outs, and on the rare occasions he found trouble, he blasted his way out with a cannonball sinker. Fister’s ERA dropped to 2.65, and in his ninth start he earned his sixth win, tied for the team lead.