Needing innings from a reliever late Tueday night, the Nationals called on Ross Detwiler in the 10th inning and asked him to do something he had rarely been asked to do this season: protect a tie. For only the fourth time this season, Manager Matt Williams brought Detwiler into a game with the score tied.
Detwiler went on to toss four important innings in the marathon 4-2, 16-inning win over Milwaukee. The bullpen had already used three relievers — Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett and Craig Stammen — and Williams wanted to avoid the rest. He eventually had to used Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano, but not until Detwiler put the Nationals on his back for four innings and fired 46 pitches in his best outing of the season. The most he had thrown before then was 2 1/3 innings in early May.
“Det was above and beyond,” Williams said. “Going in we had some guys that were feeling it so we didn’t want to go to them. Turned out we had to. Det was fantastic.”
Detwiler threw only fastballs but the difference Tuesday was his command. Entering the outing, Detwiler’s ERA neared five and he had been scored on in six of the past eight appearances. He looked different against the Brewers. He attacked hitters. He kept his sinkers low in the strike zone. He pitched with confidence.
“Our bullpen is running kind of short when you play 16 innings so it’s good to go out there and get out there as long as you can,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler gave up a hit in the 12th but erased it with a double play. He gave up a leadoff single in the 13th but got two outs, intentionally walked Jonathan Lucroy and then got Carlos Gomez to line out with two on. While every other Nationals reliever gave one inning, Detwiler gave four.
The transition to the bullpen hasn’t been easy for Detwiler. He has done it before in his career, but moving from the rotation to the bullpen in spring training simply hasn’t worked well for all sides. The Nationals said they had high hopes for Detwiler and his powerful left arm in the bullpen, but rarely used him in high-leverage situations. His rising ERA didn’t help.
On Tuesday, the situation begged for a strong outing and Detwiler delivered, and he believes it may help him in the future.
“I thought I was able to command my fastball in and out [Tuesday], something I haven’t done all year,” he said. “It’s kind of a good shot in the arm for me to move forward and gain a little confidence knowing I did it for four innings in a row.”
>>> One bullpen-related note: After the game, Williams said he will evaluate the state of the bullpen and if the team needs to make a roster move to get a fresh arm from the minor leagues. He said he could get an inning out of Blevins and Stammen on Wednesday so the situation isn’t dire. The easiest solution would be Stephen Strasburg pitched deep into the game and saved the bullpen from more work.
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Lehigh Valley 3: Zach Kroenke allowed three runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. Warner Madrigal earned the save. Steven Souza Jr. went 2 for 2 and is now hitting .369. Emmanuel Burriss went 2 for 3.
Richmond 2, Harrisburg 0: Brett Brach allowed two runs on nine hits over seven innings. Drew Vettleson, back from the disabled list, went 2 for 3.
Potomac 10, Salem 1: Austin Voth struck out six over six scoreless innings. On rehab, Bryce Harper went 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBI. Wilson Ramos went 2 for 5 with two RBI. Will Piwnica-Worms went 2 for 4 with two RBI.
Lexington 5, Hagerstown 3: Hector Silvestre allowed four runs and struck out six over seven innings. Rafael Bautista and Wilmer Difo each had two hits. Isaac Ballou, James Yezzo and Cody Dent each had an RBI.
Williamsport 10, Auburn 4: Luis Torres allowed five runs, only two earned, on six hits over four innings and struck out six. John Feliz coughed up five runs. Austin Davidson went 1 for 3 with two RBI.