Ross Detwiler had to wait nine between starts because the rain this weekend, a long layoff that came at the wrong time. On Sept. 2, he allowed six runs and seven hits in three innings. He waited four days to pitch, like always, and the Nationals’ rotation maneuvering in response to the rain made him wait five more. “It kind of eats at you every day,” Detwiler said.
But the extra rest provided one positive side effect. Detwiler would be able to face the Mets, the team that battered him in his last start.
“I really wanted to get them,” Detwiler said. “I really wanted to get them back for what they did to me last time.”
Detwiler earned his revenge in the Nationals’ 3-2 last night. He allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings, a line score that does not reflect how dominant Detwiler was for the majority of the night. He retired 17 of the first 19 batters he faced, including 12 at one point. His start unraveled suddenly when two walks and two singles ended his night.
Still, Detwiler had exorcised any lingering anger from his last start. It began with his preparation for this start. Two days after his clunker, he took the mound for a bullpen session, and he made sure to push any leftover frustration out of his mind. “It takes everything out of your bullpen, too, if you go out there and you’re still thinking about your last start,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler examined the video from his start, and he realized the Mets had not beaten him at his best.
“I hurt myself against them,” Detwiler said. “I went back and looked at the video, and every ball was at the top of the strike zone. Today, I was just going to keep the ball down.”
And he did. Detwiler found an early rhythm, mixing his curveball, changeup and sinker, moving his fastball in and out in the lower half of the strike zone. He shook catcher Wilson Ramos off only once all night.
“I think confidence is the big word there,” Detwiler said. “The first couple batters, I was kind of feeling my way through it. Then I kind of got in a groove and felt like I could really place the ball where I wanted. I could rely on my defense.”
“He was cruising,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
The ease of his dominance made Detwiler’s sudden end startling. With two outs and the bases empty in the sixth, Detwiler ended his streak of 12 straight outs by walking both Justin Turner and Lucas Duda. David Wright ripped an RBI single, and Angel Pagan blooped a tough-luck double to right.
“Just kind of lost touch on my fastball,” Detwiler said. “I just couldn’t throw a strike there.”
Johnson trudged to the mound and looked to the bullpen. As Detwiler said, “it was Coffey time.”
Todd Coffey came rumbling in, charged with keeping Detwiler from taking the loss. Two runners stood in scoring position in a tie game, with Jason Bay at the plate. “I don’t even focus on runners,” Coffey said. “I only look at the hitter. I had two hitters, really to get out there. I had a base open.”
When Coffey got ahead 0-2 on Bay, and with first base open, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. “He was going to four straight sliders,” Coffey said. “If I walked him, I walked him. He wasn’t going to get a strike.”
Bay watched the first slider for a ball. The second one, he couldn’t lay off. In the bottom of the inning, Steve Lombardozzi drilled his first big league hit to score the game-winning run. The indefatigable Tyler Clippard pitched two scoreless innings, setting up the 35th save of Drew Storen’s season.
Detwiler had left the game on a sudden and disappointing note. But after the bullpen’s fine work, he could enjoy a measure of revenge.
FROM THE POST
With his father watching from the stands, Steve Lombardozzi drove in the game-winning run of the Nationals’ 3-2 win over the Mets with his first major league hit.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Frederick 3, Potomac 2: The P-Nats lost the series, 3-2, and ended their season. Starter Paul Demny allowed three runs in 2/3 of an innings on three hits and a walk, striking out two. Trevor Holder allowed no runs in 3 1/3 relief innings on no hits and one walk, striking out four. Brian Peacock hit a home run in the ninth inning.
Staten Island 9, Auburn 2: Auburn fell behind in the New York-Penn League championship series, 1-0. Billy Burns went 2 for 4.