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Ross Detwiler will be asked to keep the Nationals' season alive.
Ross Detwiler wasn't projected to make the Nationals' rotation out of spring training, and even after earning the fifth starter's job on Opening Day, he still was bumped to the bullpen in May after Chien-Ming Wang returned from a hamstring injury.
Along the way, though, Detwiler proved his worth to the Nationals and proved himself a quality big-league starter during a breakthrough season that saw him go 10-8 while posting a 3.40 ERA.
That season-long performance earned Detwiler a spot in the Nationals' postseason rotation, and now it's earned him the right to start a win-or-else Game 4 for his team.
"He has really come a long way," manager Davey Johnson said. "I've seen him pitch some great ballgames. You know, he's got outstanding stuff, and he's got good poise. I have never seen him get really rattled by the situation."
That might be wishful thinking on Johnson's part, because Detwiler certainly appeared rattled the last time he pitched. Given the ball 11 days ago in St. Louis to face the same lineup he'll go up against this afternoon, the 26-year-old lefty seemed to wilt under the weight of the moment.
With a chance to clinch the NL East title for the Nationals, Detwiler lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs (three earned) while walking five.
"I try not to remember that one," he joked yesterday morning, prior to Game 3.
Detwiler will need to recall at least some details of that sub-par outing, lest he make the same mistakes against the Cardinals.
"The scouting report is still fresh in my mind," he said. "It's my last start and the last hitters I saw. I'll know how to attack them and how I want to do it."
The key for Detwiler, as it has been so often this season: Go right after hitters and get ahead in the count, then start mixing and matching his offspeed stuff with his fastball.
One aspect in Detwiler's favor: He'll be pitching in the familiar and comfortable surroundings of Nationals Park, where he went 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA this season. On the road, he was 2-6 with a 4.38 ERA.
Detwiler doesn't know why precisely his home/road splits have been so dramatic, but he admits there's a comfort level pitching in Washington.
"I think it's just a routine thing," he said. "I'm able to get in the routine here. I have my places I go before starts at home. Obviously on the road, you're in a different city, so you can't do that. Hopefully that's what it is, and I'll go about that tomorrow."
If not, Detwiler and the Nationals might have all winter to think about it.