Detwiler makes sure the Nationals' season isn't over

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Lefty keeps Cardinals at bay for six innings

His team's season was on the line, and Nationals starter Ross Detwiler, a St. Louis native, was facing his hometown club for the second time in 12 days.

On Sept. 30, with a chance to pitch the Nats to the National League East title, he faltered in front of friends and family at Busch Stadium. On Thursday, Detwiler tossed the best game of his career under immense pressure against the Cardinals. Detwiler's six-inning outing set the stage for Jayson Werth's incredible walk-off home run in the ninth as Washington took a 2-1 victory in Game 4 of the NL Division Series at Nationals Park.

"My nerves were worse in the ninth inning there before [Werth's] at-bat," Detwiler said. "It wasn't too bad. I tried to look at it as another game. I felt like I really had something to prove, especially after the last start against them."

Up next
Cardinals at Nationals
Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA)
When » Friday, 8:37 p.m.
Where » Nationals Park
TV » TBS
Radio » 106.7 the Fan,
WFED 1500, WHFS 1580
It all comes down to this. And with Stephen Strasburg's season already over, there is no pitcher the Nationals would rather have on the mound for a decisive Game 5 of a National League Division Series than Gio Gonzalez -- even if the 27-year-old lefty struggled in Game 1 against St. Louis. He gave up just one hit but mitigated that with seven agonizing walks before finally righting himself and leaving after five innings with just two runs allowed. That let Washington rally for a 3-2 victory. Now Gonzalez has another chance when a win will lift his club into the NL Championship Series for the first time since the Montreal Expos made it there in 1981.

He did that and more. Detwiler allowed just one run -- and an unearned one at that -- and gave up just three hits and three walks. Outside of the third inning, when a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran drove home a run, no Cardinals batter reached scoring position against Detwiler. He threw a career-high 104 pitches. It was a far cry from the seven runs, three earned, he allowed in just 2 2/3 innings at Busch Stadium on Sept. 30.

"I can't say how proud I am of Ross for what he did," teammate Ryan Zimmerman said. "To go through what he went through the first half of the season and have a great second half and then stunk a little bit at the end and then come out tonight under this pressure and throw the kind of game he threw tonight is pretty unbelievable."

Detwiler's performance was bolstered by a bullpen -- normal starter Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen -- that struck out eight of the 11 St. Louis batters it faced and set the stage for Werth's dramatic blast. But that all started with Detwiler doing something the previous three Washington starters hadn't been able to do -- keep the Cardinals' powerful offense in check early.

"It was the only thing we could do," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "If [Detwiler] doesn't, we go home. And again, in a game like that, everybody let it loose and see what happens. I don't think anybody was playing timid."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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