The Nationals clinched the first winning season in Washington since 1969, the year Ted Williams managed the Senators to 86 wins at RFK Stadium. Since baseball returned in 2005, the Nationals had never surpassed the 81-81 record of their inaugural season. Washington has 28 games to play.
“That’s huge for the city and everything,” Detwiler said. “Obviously, we’re not done yet. But somebody like Ryan Zimmerman, I’m just happy for him to be on a winning team.”
Zimmerman arrived in September 2005, a few months after the Nationals made him their first-ever draft pick. He is a now a seven-year veteran with a $100 million contract, the only National to play in all eight seasons. He did not mistake the milestone for an accomplishment. “We obviously haven’t really done anything yet,” he said. But he could also appreciate the signpost.
“We’ve come a long way,” Zimmerman said. “I guess you can’t try to start an organization like we did here from the ground up and expect that to happen really quickly. We’ve gone through the process, they’ve done things the right way. It’s been a struggle sometimes, and it’s been frustrating. But I think now we’re going to be set for not just this year, but a lot of years to come.”
Each day that comes off the calendar heightens the chances of the city’s first postseason baseball since 1933. Their Nationals’ lead over the Atlanta Braves held steady at 6 ½ games Monday, but their magic number to beat the Braves for the National League East title dropped to 22.
In the morning, Manager Davey Johnson, General Manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty met with Stephen Strasburg to discuss his impending shutdown. In the afternoon, Detwiler showed what kind of firepower the Nationals’ pitching staff possesses even without its ace.
Detwiler blazed mid-90s fastballs at the Cubs, four-seamers that zipped past them and two-seamers that deadened their bats. Pitching all day with no more than a one-run lead, he allowed four hits, walked three and struck out three. He needed only 93 pitches. His seven scoreless innings lowered his ERA since the all-star break to 2.79.
“I’m learning myself more and what I need to do in different situations,” Detwiler said.
In recent starts, Detwiler had thrown almost exclusively fastballs, blazing them in the mid-90s, especially in the opening innings. It has made him more aggressive and efficient and led to some of the best starts of his young career.