The Nationals hoped for a happy flight home. They will instead settle for a chance to clinch first place in front of their home crowd at Nationals Park during a three-game, season-ending series against the Philadelphia Phillies. They will give the ball Monday night to John Lannan, the longest-tenured Nationals starter, the left-hander relegated this year to Class AAA Syracuse.
“This was for all the fans back in D.C.,” Detwiler said, ending a mostly glum session with reporters with gallows humor. “I wanted them to see the team clinch.”
The delay happened because of an ugly afternoon. Detwiler became the second Nationals starter in the series to melt down against the Cardinals, a possible first-round playoff foe. Chien-Ming Wang announced his arrival from the bullpen with consecutive, crucial wild pitches. Johnson let the Nationals’ best chance to come back end with Wang at the plate.
Detwiler, pitching close to his suburban home town of Wentzville, Mo., allowed seven runs in 21
3 innings. Only three were earned, but Detwiler shouldered most of the blame. He walked five of the 16 batters he faced, allowed four hits and used 81 pitches to record seven outs.
Detwiler said neither pitching at home nor trying for the clinch affected him. “I thought it would, but it really didn’t,” he said. His problem was an inconsistent arm slot. He dropped his elbow in the middle of his delivery, which robbed his sinker of movement and cost him precision.
“I was either spiking it or throwing it to the other batter’s box,” Detwiler said. “I think it’s trying to do too much.”
Detwiler’s downfall began in the second inning. He walked the first two hitters, giving him three walks out of the first six Cardinals batters. In a jam, Detwiler threw the perfect pitch at the perfect time: Daniel Descalso chopped a 93-mph sinker to second base, a room-service double-play ball.
And then Danny Espinosa booted it. He got a perfect hop, but the ball smacked off his glove and trickled away. Rather than two outs and one on, Detwiler faced bases loaded and no outs.
“I kind of handcuffed myself on a ball that I make 999 times out of 1,000,” Espinosa said. “I wasn’t able to come through right there.”
Then Pete Kozma, who tormented the Nationals all weekend, delivered another blow. His double into right field scored two runs, even though Espinosa’s bullet relay throw cut down one runner at the plate. Jon Jay’s two-out single and Carlos Beltran’s homer, his first of two, completed the damage.