Detwiler Is Solid, but the Nationals Fall to Reds

Stadium worker Mario Hernandez tries to clear out the water in the tunnel leading to the visitor's clubhouse.
Stadium worker Mario Hernandez tries to clear out the water in the tunnel leading to the visitor's clubhouse. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Although the only pitcher that many Washington Nationals fans might have truly cared about yesterday was some 3,000 miles away, there are still questions about how their present collection of young arms will take shape in the starting rotation.

One of those starters, rookie Ross Detwiler, had his chance to assert himself last night. But against one of the National League's promising new pitchers and without the backing of hearty run support from his teammates, Detwiler took the fall in the Nationals' 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Detwiler (0-3) looked crisp, especially early on, showing a command of breaking pitches and little fear with a fastball that touched 94 mph. But he fatigued during a two-run fifth inning that made the difference.

And he could not match Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, 23, who showed the aggressive, throw-strikes approach that has made him so successful this season. Cueto (6-3) pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts.

"I think it was a well-pitched ballgame by both sides," Manager Manny Acta said. "We just couldn't capitalize."

Detwiler, 23, selected with Washington's first-round pick in 2007, made the leap to the major leagues as a replacement part. He and fellow rookie Craig Stammen are filling in for the injured Scott Olsen and the recently released Daniel Cabrera. Either Detwiler or Stammen is expected to be sent back to the minors upon Olsen's return.

"We'll make the decision when Olsen is ready," Acta said. Olsen "still needs to finish his rehab. These kids still have a couple of starts to make."

Olsen, on the disabled list since May 18 with shoulder tendinitis, had a rehabilitation assignment last night with Class A Potomac. Reliever Kip Wells was also in Potomac on a rehabilitation assignment after being placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 31 with a right adductor strain.

In a 7-0 loss Sunday against the New York Mets, Stammen scuffled through an outing he would probably like to forget. Stammen allowed five runs, threw two wild pitches and walked two -- in the first inning. The stage was set for Detwiler to leave an impression last night against the Reds (30-27).

In six innings, Detwiler allowed three runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts. But he was overshadowed from the outset by the Nationals' much-anticipated selection of Stephen Strasburg, a right-handed pitcher from San Diego State, with the first pick in the Major League Baseball draft.

After the draft, and then a 1-hour 47-minute rain delay, things looked immediately hopeful for the Nationals (15-41). Cueto struggled with his command early on. His slider swept out of the zone and his fastball rode high and scooted low, pinched too far inside or tailed too far outside.

But Washington could not score until the fourth inning. With one out, Elijah Dukes drove a 2-2 pitch over left-center field for his sixth home run of the season. After being served four consecutive four-seam fastballs from Cueto, Dukes did not hesitate when an 89-mph slider hung over the plate. The ball landed in the Reds' bullpen and Dukes broke into a trot. And yes, the fireworks exploded over Nationals Park.

Cristian Guzmán hit a solo homer in the eighth.

The Reds had some difficulty with Detwiler. He threw a 1-2-3 first inning and then struck out the first two batters of the second, before the Reds managed to scratch out a run that inning. Detwiler walked Jay Bruce and relented a lined singled to Alex González before Ryan Hanigan looped a single into right field to score Bruce. Other than that, Detwiler looked sharp and worked efficiently.

But by the fifth inning Detwiler started to slow. He allowed a leadoff double to González and later walked Cueto on four pitches. A batter later, he walked Jerry Hairston. That soon spelled trouble. Steve McCatty, the recently hired pitching coach, went to the mound. But the visit was of no avail. With two outs and the bases loaded, Brandon Phillips poked a 1-2 fastball down the first base line to score González and Cueto.

"It was the right pitch in the situation, but it was up," Detwiler said. "It was outside, like I wanted it to, but it was just up so he could hit it."

Detwiler later added: "That's one positive you can take out of it is just about all of my starts have been close to a win. It's just been that one pitch or that one inning that really takes me out of it."

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