The days when Ross Detwiler toggled between the bullpen and the starting rotation are over. That is not exactly an official proclamation, but it might as well be after Tuesday night.
Coming off a start in which he threw seven scoreless innings, Detwiler allowed two runs over seven innings on three hits and two walks. After he gave up a two-run homer to the third batter he faced, Ben Francisco, Detwiler tossed six scoreless innings.
The performance lowered Detwiler’s ERA to 2.99, which ranks third among Nationals starters behind Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg. Three Nationals starters — Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann — have won an NL pitcher of the month award. In his two August starts, Detwiler has allowed two runs and six hits in 14 innings.
Detwiler again shelved his mid-90s four-seam fastball and relied on his sinker, the same thing he did against the Philadelphia Phillies last Thursday. Detwiler baffled the Phillies throwing almost nothing but sinking fastballs while inducing 11 outs on the ground. The approach gave him perhaps the best start of his career.
Tuesday, Detwiler burned worms again. He threw the Astros sinker after sinker, the ball diving into the bottom half of the strike zone at 92 or 93 miles per hour. Of his 85 pitches, Detwiler threw 69 sinkers. Detwiler induced 12 groundball outs compared to four flyball outs.
But that was not his original plan. Detwiler wanted to work inside with his four-seamer, which hits 95 and sometimes 96. He walked Jose Altuve to start the game, and two batters later Francisco crushed a fastball over the left-field wall.
“I was just trying to get in early,” Detwiler said. “I obviously did not get in too far on Francisco there. I tried to get them in early, and then we just went back to the sinker.”
Catcher Jesus Flores noticed Detwiler’s sharp sinker, and he continued to call it and call it. Even with all the success he’s had with his sinker the past two starts, Detwiler still likes to use his four-seamer inside. He has not remade himself, but with his sinker has given himself another option.
“Whatever is working that day, I’m going to go with,” Detwiler said. “Flo noticed it right away, and after that first inning we didn’t really go in all that much. I was just trying to throw strikes with the sinker.
“I’m starting to get a lot of confidence in it and throw it where I want it every time, instead of hoping it goes there.”
The option to use his sinker if his four-seamer is off, or vice-versa, makes Detwiler that much more dangerous. He can basically be two pitchers in one, and when one isn’t working he can switch to the other one.
“Today, it was huge for me,” Detwiler said. “I didn’t have good location at the beginning of the game with four-seamers. As long as the sinker is going to work, I’m going to use it from there on out.”
Last night, Detwiler eschewed strikeouts for early contact, and after seven innings he had only used 85 pitches. After the home run he allowed Francisco, Detwiler faced two hitters over the minimum for the remainder of his 6 2/3 innings on the mound. Had he not been pulled for a pinch-hitter, Detwiler could have easily thrown into the eighth inning for the first time in his career.
Detwiler once struggled to stay on the mound, but his sinkerballing style has made him both dominant and efficient. In a start earlier this year, he needed 100 pitches to last 4 1/3 innings. Over his past two starts, Detwiler has averaged a tidy 12.3 pitches per inning.
“They’re trying to jump on it early, and they’re trying to get a good pitch to hit. If I can make my pitch, that’s what I want to do. I want to get out of there early, and I’ll be able to go deeper in games.”
FROM THE POST
“He disappeared and came out holding the glove high,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I said, ‘Man, this is great. Let’s get out of here.’ ”
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Buffalo 3: Eury Perez went 2 for 5. Carlos Rivero went 2 for 3 with a walk. Carlos Maldonado went 2 for 4 with a home run. Yunesky Maya allowed three runs in six innings on seven hits and three walks, striking out four.
Richmond 7, Harrisburg 2: In a rehab assignment, Chien-Ming Wang allowed six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings on seven hits and two walks, striking out four. Wang has until Aug. 11 before his rehab clock runs out. Brian Goodwin went 1 for 4 with a double.
Potomac 5, Myrtle Beach 1: Anthony Rendon returned from a broken ankle he suffered in early April. He went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Alex Meyer allowed one run in six innings on two hits and a walk, striking out four. In 23 innings at Potomac, Meyer has allowed two earned runs.
Hagerstown was off.
Auburn 5, Jamestown 4: Mike McQuillan went 2 for 4. Narciso Mesa went 3 for 3. Robert Benincasa allowed no runs in two relief innings on one hit and no walks, striking out three.