The man who lost his starting spot early in the season to Chien-Ming Wang only to regain it, then post a breakout year and effectively take the place of Stephen Strasburg in the playoff rotation, now has the chance to be a hero.
“One hundred [percent] confident,” shortstop Ian Desmond said of Detwiler. “I got no worries whatsoever. He’s been great for us all year long. I think he’s due.”
“I’m excited for him to pitch tomorrow,” reliever Craig Stammen said. “Back when we were the [Class A] P-Nats he was our clinching pitcher.”
Detwiler spoke with confidence, ease and humor before Wednesday’s game, dropping in frank assessments of his own failings against the Cardinals. He joked that his last few starts of the season were an exercise of “what not to do.” He said he has tried to forget his loss to the Cardinals on Sept. 30, in which he allowed seven runs, three earned, in 2 1/3 innings in his last outing of the regular season. He vowed to be more aggressive this time, despite a layoff of 10 days in between starts.
“I’m just really going out there trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead in the count,” he said. “You know, make the hitters hit my pitch instead of having to come after them 2-1, 3-1 like I was the whole time; limit the walks. I think I had five or six walks and I think that’s what really ended up hurting me.”
Detwiler, who grew up 38 miles west of Busch Stadium in Wentzville, Mo., will make his second start against his hometown team.
Over the three seasons, the 2007 first-round draft pick has toggled between reliever and starter. This year, he learned how to better use his lively fastball and biting sinker. And more importantly, he understood he needed to be more aggressive thanks to the urging of veteran reliever Michael Gonzalez. And he learned to be more confident and relaxed with the help of Gio Gonzalez.
Detwiler no longer slouched on the mound after allowing a hit or run. He stood tall and attacked again.
“A lot of these young pitchers, it generally takes, experience-wise, generally takes a couple years,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said
Detwiler hopes that the confines of Nationals Park will be as favorable as they have been all season. In 90 1/3 innings at home this year, most of them as a starter, Detwiler is 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA. On the road, his ERA is 4.39 and he has a 2-6 record over 74 innings. Asked for an explanation, he could offer none.