OAKLAND -- Doug Fister was his own worst enemy on Friday night against the A's.
Making his Nationals debut after a missing the first five-plus weeks of the season with a lat strain, Fister was hit hard and made a couple of key mistakes that helped Oakland claim an 8-0 victory to start off the three-game set.
Fister was Washington's big-time trade acquisition this past winter and is expected to bring a big boost to the club's already-talented rotation. But Friday night, he simply didn't have it.
"Physically, I felt like I was in the right place today," Fister said. "I felt strong, but it was a matter of a lack of execution. I was excited for tonight, no more than normal, everything felt good. I've been working on keeping pitches down in the zone, and I didn't do that tonight."
As the Nationals tried to insert Fister into the rotation, he had to wait a couple of extra days as opposed to going on normal four days' rest. He threw two side sessions instead of his usual one between starts, but manager Matt Williams said there's nothing that could have prepared Fister for the rhythm of a real game.
Fister usually makes a living as a ground-ball pitcher who pounds the bottom of the strike zone, but he left too many pitches up, and the A's took advantage.
"I think he felt strong," Williams said. "Maybe a little too strong."
Things got off to a bad start in the bottom of the first when Fister airmailed a ball into foul territory trying to get Josh Donaldson at first base. Donaldson would come around to score the game's first run on Brandon Moss' RBI single later in the inning.
"It was just a terrible throw," Fister said.
After allowing a solo home run to John Jaso in the third, Fister made things tougher for himself by throwing a wild pitch in the fourth, allowing Yoenis Cespedes to score to make it 3-0 A's. The wheels would really fall off in the fifth, though, when Moss and Cespedes hit homers on consecutive pitches to bring the score to 7-0.
Even though it was his Washington debut and he wasn't pitching on normal rest, Fister wasn't making any excuses for his outing. In all, he went 4 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on nine hits, while striking out two and walking none.
"No matter what day you pitch, it's a matter of going out there and executing," Fister said. "Whether you're a little sore or feeling great, you've got to make the adjustment. I didn't make the adjustment tonight."
Still, Fister said he was happy with the way the ball was moving out of his hand, just not with the location. Likewise, his skipper said he expects Fister "will be much better next time," while noting that he was pleased to see his right-hander get through the start healthy.
"None of them are easy to brush off, but you take the positives out of it," Williams said. "Granted, he didn't throw the ball where he wanted to throw it, but he got off the mound and threw the ball to first base no problems. Ball was just up in the zone a little bit."
All the while, Washington couldn't get any offense going against A's lefty and former National Tommy Milone, who tossed eight shutout innings.
Nats shortstop Ian Desmond was teammates with Milone in 2011, and had some high praise.
"He's like a little Mark Buehrle -- I wouldn't be surprised if he has a very similar career," Desmond said. "He's a competitor, he pounds the zone, and he works quick. Him and [catcher Derek Norris] seemed to be on the same page all night. We just missed a couple balls, but that's what he does."
The southpaw gave up a first-inning walk to Jayson Werth and a second-inning double to Scott Hairston, but would go on to retire the next 11 batters he faced. Milone allowed just two hits and three walks while striking out seven. The Nationals managed to put just two runners in scoring position.
Norris, who also came up in the Washington organization but was traded to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal, admitted that he and Milone might have had some extra juices flowing while facing their former club on Friday night.
"Any time you can put together a good outing," Norris said, "especially with Tommy having been struggling a bit, for him to come back like that solidifies what he's capable of doing for our rotation. On my end, you want to show them what they're missing. Not in a drastic, blatant manner, but showing them this is what you could have had."
If anyone was going to beat the Nationals, Desmond is glad that Milone and Norris were the ones responsible.
"I hate to say -- because we lost -- but it's good to see those two guys," Desmond said. "I'm happy for them, those guys are making a career for themselves. Obviously, I wanted to beat both of them, but at the same time, a little hat tip."
The Nationals will be quick to move past this one, as it wasn't just Fister and the offense who struggled. Washington had as many errors (three) as hits, matching its season high.
"That's what you ask for when you do that," Williams said. "Want to play clean baseball, certainly, and you're asking for trouble if you give them extra outs."
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.