Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ross Detwiler faces Cole Hamels in the opener of a big series at Citizens Bank Park.
Whether that strategy pays off in the end remains to be seen, but Johnson certainly has to like the chances of Detwiler turning in a solid performance tonight. He's already 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts this month, the last two coming against playoff contenders (the Braves and Dodgers). Also, in two starts against the Phillies the last two seasons, Detwiler is 2-0 having tossed 14 1/3 scoreless innings while surrendering only three hits.
Cole Hamels is on the mound for the Phillies, and he's had plenty of success against the Nationals this year (2-1, 1.17 ERA in three starts) in spite of one particular incident with Bryce Harper back in May.
Updates to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Clear, 68 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Ross Detwiler
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF John Mayberry
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
RF Domonic Brown
LF Darin Ruf
3B Kevin Frandsen
LHP Cole Hamels
HP Andy Fletcher
1B Joe West (cc)
2B Mike Muchlinski
3B Rob Drake
7:07 p.m. -- We are underway on a 71 degree night in the City of Brotherly Love. Whole lotta empty seats here, certainly more than I remember seeing in several years in this ballpark.
7:16 p.m. -- Not much happening for the Nats in the top of the first. Bryce Harper did continue his mastery of Cole Hamels with a one-out single up the middle, but he was quickly erased on Ryan Zimmerman's fielder's choice. Hamels struck out both Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche, so here's Ross Detwiler taking the mound for the bottom of the first.
7:24 p.m. -- Good stuff from Detwiler in the bottom of the inning. As he's done so well over the last few months, the lefty pounded the strike zone dialing his fastball up to 94. He got a couple of flyball outs and surrendered a bloop single to Chase Utley but finished strong by getting Ryan Howard to whiff at a 94 mph heater. Scoreless through one.
7:34 p.m. -- And the Nats take a 1-0 lead thanks to Danny Espinosa's legs. After drawing a two-out walk, he got a great jump and stole second, then got another great jump and was halfway down the line to third just as Kurt Suzuki roped a base hit up the middle. Espinosa scored without a throw as the Nats take an early lead here. And down in Atlanta, Kris Medlen just gave up the first career home run hit by the Marlins' Donovan Solano. Yep, Jhonaton's brother. So The Onion's brother just made the Braves cry. They trail 1-0.
7:48 p.m. -- And Detwiler gives the run right back, to a somewhat familiar face: Darin Ruf, the Phillies' 26-year-old rookie slugger who just blasted his first career homer (and notched his first career hit on top of it) on a 3-2 high fastball. Ruf and Detwiler go back a ways; they faced each other in college at rival Missouri Valley Conference schools, Detwiler at Missouri State, Ruf at Creighton. This round went to Ruf and the Phillies, who have tied the game 1-1 after two.
8:09 p.m. -- Uh-oh, things really fell apart for Detwiler in the bottom of the third, a nightmare of an inning. He issued two straight walks to open the frame, then allowed an RBI single to Ryan Howard, then served up a three-run bomb to Carlos Ruiz. Here's Detwiler's results over an eight-batter span, starting with Ruf's homer in the second: Home run, Double, Walk, Popout, Walk, Walk, Single, Home run. Not a good outing at all for the left-hander. And now the Nats trail 5-1.
8:26 p.m. -- Detwiler needed that: a 1-2-3 fourth. He's retired six straight since the Ruiz homer, a nice recovery. Though it might be too late to overcome the damage that's already been done. Still 5-1 as we move to the fifth.
8:45 p.m. -- Don't count the Nats out quite yet. They just put together a spirited rally in the top of the fifth, getting base hits from Suzuki, Harper, Zimmerman and LaRoche to trim the lead to 5-3. If they've accomplished one thing tonight, they've managed to make Hamels work. He's already at 99 pitches through five innings, so he may not have much left in the tank. In not-as-good news, the Braves have taken a 2-1 lead on the Marlins in the sixth.
8:57 p.m. -- Wait, don't count the Marlins out quite yet, either. Donovan Solano just homered AGAIN, putting Miami up 3-2 on Atlanta. The Onion's brother delivering big-time. Back here, Hamels is indeed out of the game, with Josh Lindblom in from the Phillies bullpen for the sixth.
9:03 p.m. -- Detwiler is done after six innings. Not his best start by any means, but he took what looked like a disaster and righted his ship, giving the Nats a chance to win. Still 5-3 in the middle of the sixth as Craig Stammen enters.
9:20 p.m. -- And Stammen's very first pitch of the night winds up in the right field bleachers, courtesy Domonic Brown. Stammen then got into an even bigger jam, loading the bases with two outs. All of a sudden, Michael Gonzalez had to trot in from the bullpen to face Chase Utley in a big spot. Gonzalez got the job done -- with some help from LaRoche's glove -- but it's now 6-3 Phillies after six.
9:32 p.m. -- The Nats knocked Hamels out of this game after five innings, but they haven't been able to do squat against the Phillies bullpen. They're now 0-for-6 against Josh Lindblom, Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo. Thus they still trail 6-3 and are now down to their final three outs.
9:36 p.m. -- Oh dear, Freddie Freeman just blasted a two-run, walk-off homer off Mike Dunn to give the Braves a stunning, 4-3 victory over the Marlins. They clinched a playoff berth and dropped the Nats' lead in the NL East to 4 1/2 for the moment. If they can't rally late, they'll see that lead drop to 4 very shortly.
9:47 p.m. -- Three more up, three more down for the Nats against the Phillies bullpen. Phillipe Aumont retires the side in the eighth, so now they're down to their last three outs, still trailing 6-3.
9:53 p.m. -- OK, last chance. It's Desmond, Espinosa and Suzuki in the ninth inning against Jonathan Papelbon. They trail by three.
10:03 p.m. -- That's it. The Nats lose the opener of this series 6-3. Coupled with the Braves' win, their lead in the NL East is now down to 4 games with 8 to play. The magic number remains at 5. And now the earliest they could clinch the division is Friday night in St. Louis.