The Baseball Page: June 24, 2012

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Nationals report

Detwiler must stay aggressive

An injury to Chien-Ming Wang gave Ross Detwiler the chance to prove himself in the Nationals' starting rotation to begin the season. But after a nice start, the 26-year-old faded. Wang returned from a left hamstring strain May 25 and sent Detwiler back to the bullpen. But the fight wasn't over. Wang himself struggled, so manager Davey Johnson has turned back to Detwiler, who will start Sunday's game at Baltimore.
How long he stays in the rotation this time will be determined in part by how aggressively Detwiler pitches. In relief Tuesday, he fired fastballs at Tampa Bay's hitters and held them scoreless for 32Ú3 innings to give the Nats a chance to rally. Detwiler threw just seven sliders, relying more on a sinking fastball and a change-up. He didn't walk a batter and struck out three. But can he keep that up?

"I think things happen for the best. If you compare [Detwiler's] performance [Tuesday] with the last two outings, it's a totally different pitcher," Johnson said. "He was dominating. Very aggressive after the hitters. His last two starts he's kind of pitching defensively, not attacking the hitter. So I think this stint in the bullpen, if anything, helped him."

MLB STORYLINES

1 Braves' rotation » A once pitching-rich club finds itself with issues after right-hander Brandon Beachy underwent Tommy John surgery Thursday. In 13 starts, the 25-year-old had a 2.00 ERA -- tied for the lowest in the big leagues. Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson have been solid, and either is capable of getting hot. Randall Delgado, 22, has been acceptable (4.12 ERA). But Mike Minor has struggled. Former top prospect Jair Jurrjens, who wound up in Triple-A after a rough start, returned to replace Beachy. He allowed one run in 72Ú3 innings to beat the Red Sox on Friday, improving his ERA to 6.75.

2 Hot Sox » For all the drama surrounding Boston this spring -- an unhappy Kevin Youkilis, an injured Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford and a shaky rotation -- the Red Sox have managed to stay afloat, and that makes them dangerous in the American League East. They entered Saturday two games over .500 and, incredibly, had a plus-37 run differential. Only five teams in the sport are better. The offense is humming even without Ellsbury, its .772 team OPS good for fifth overall. And the bullpen (3.30 ERA) has been strong, too. But that 27th-ranked rotation is holding Boston back for now.

3 Seeing Red » Call them baseball's unluckiest team. The St. Louis Cardinals had outscored opponents by 58 runs entering play Saturday. That was best in the National League and second overall. And yet the Cardinals were in third place in the NL Central and three games out of a playoff spot. This is a team with an expected record of 41-30, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Instead, St. Louis was 36-35. What gives? The offense was third in runs scored, and the pitching staff ranked 12th. But dig deeper and you see a rotation that has been let down by a shaky bullpen (4.31 ERA).

Who's hot?

1. Carlos Gonzalez » The left fielder is the Rockies' lone bright spot. He was hitting .332 entering Saturday.

2. Adrian Beltre » The Rangers third baseman recently had two hits or more six times in an eight-game span.

3. R.A. Dickey » The 37-year-old Mets knuckleballer has not allowed an earned run in 422Ú3 innings.

WHO'S NOT?

1. Kyle Drabek » Toronto's young right-hander has a torn elbow ligament and will need Tommy John surgery.

2. Mat Latos » Don't let the 5-2 record fool you. The Reds ace has allowed seven runs in a game twice in June.

3. Logan Morrison » Knee pain has sapped the power of the Marlins outfielder, who was slugging .402 entering Saturday.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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