Associated Press photo
Davey Johnson hugs Ross Detwiler after a six-inning start in Game 4.
Detwiler, after all, wouldn't have been pitching Game 4 if Strasburg were on the roster.
It was a lot of pressure for a 26-year-old in his first full season as a regular starting pitcher. He could have easily caved but instead pitched six stellar innings, allowing just three hits and zero earned runs to a scorching-hot Cardinals lineup.
Veteran Jayson Werth, the eventual hero with his ninth-inning walk-off homer, spoke proudly of the young lefty.
"Media can say whatever they want; we know the type of guy Ross is and what he brings to the team,” Werth said. "I said yesterday, I felt good about where we were at. I felt like Ross would handle business."
"I tell you, I was so proud of him," manager Davey Johnson said, still catching his breath from the season-saving win. "He was outstanding, unbelievable. Won the game for us."
Within 30 minutes of Thursday's game, Detwiler had already done something his fellow starters couldn't do. Not the 21-game-winning Cy Young candidate, not the two-time finisher in the top 10 of NL ERA leaders, not the World Series champion.
Detwiler had taken the Nats through two innings without a deficit, finally giving the searching Washington offense, and the sold-out crowd, a chance to stay in the game.
"It was the only thing we could do," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "If he doesn't, we go home. We were in a bad situation having to win the next two games, and we just made that a lot better."
Once Detwiler got out of the top of the second, on a Daniel Descalso grounder to second, the 44,392 in attendance exploded before breathing a collective sigh of relief. It became clear that possibly, just maybe, this game would be different.
The energy carried on throughout the game and, because of the low scoring, was focused primarily on the Nationals' pitching and defensive plays.
The Cardinals tied the game at 1 in the third, but the run wasn't earned, the inning extended by an Ian Desmond error. After the third inning, Detwiler never let a St. Louis player get past second base. As his wonderful start kept up, each third out brought an outburst from the crowd.
"You want to feed off that energy," Detwiler said. "It was unbelievable. It is our first experience in the postseason, but we want to keep coming back for more."
Detwiler pitched Thursday on 10 days rest, a circumstance that had plagued his teammates earlier in the series. He was also coming off two of his worst starts of the entire season, including a seven-run (three earned), 2 1/3-inning debacle to the very same Cardinals lineup he shut down on Thursday.
Somehow the team's former sixth-overall pick, who at times looked like he would never fully realize his potential, rose to the occasion with a spectacular postseason performance. For a first-time playoff start, it was even more than the Nationals could ask for.