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The Baseball Page: Sept. 23, 2012

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Orioles,Brian McNally

Nationals report

Detwiler making surprise impact

He still isn't a household name around baseball, but Ross Detwiler's emergence this season is a major reason the Nationals still have an edge heading in the playoffs next month. In the win that clinched a postseason spot Thursday, Detwiler shut down the Dodgers through six innings with one run allowed on three hits. His ERA is now 3.10 in 157 innings, which is better even than Stephen Strasburg (3.16) in an almost equal workload (1591Ú3).

But is anyone else noticing? Not to say Detwiler has been flawless. He gave up a pair of homers to the Marlins earlier this month and didn't react all that well to being squeezed by the home-plate umpire. But he has allowed two earned runs in his last two starts to the Braves, who will be in the postseason, and the Dodgers, who still have a shot, too. Detwiler slots in nicely as the third pitcher in a division series.

"I don't know if really I realized my potential. Nobody really knows what they can do until the end," Detwiler said. "Not until the end is near. I'm just going out trying to get groundballs. We have an unbelievable defense, why wouldn't you want to get groundballs to save some pitches?"

MLB STORYLINES

1

AL wild-card chase » The added playoff berth isn't quite working out in the American League, where last year's final day of the season was pure chaos. As teams headed into the second-to-last Saturday of 2012, that's not the case. Baltimore led Oakland by a game for the top spot, and the lead over the Angels (4? games), Rays (5?) and Tigers (six) was substantial. All three of those clubs are in dire straits now. So much for last weekend's A's-Orioles series being a showdown. Both teams seem likely to make it barring a collapse and one of the teams behind them catching fire.

2 NL wild-card chase » The Braves, too, are cruising to the National League's first wild-card berth with a six-game lead entering the weekend. That advantage has held steady for weeks and a sweep of first-place Washington showed Atlanta will be a formidable postseason presence. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are holding tight to the final spot. Los Angeles' series loss in Washington damaged its chances as it fell three games behind St. Louis, but a big series at Nationals Park through Monday gives Milwaukee a chance to make one last run. The Brewers entered it just 2 ? games back. Philadelphia was still lurking four games out.

3

Texas three-step » Baseball's best offense is lurking under the radar as the postseason approaches. Much of the intrigue concerns whether the surprising A's and Orioles can hold their playoff spots, the Yankees' rotation can get healthy and the White Sox can hold off the Tigers in the AL Central. But the Rangers -- with a comfortable if not decisive AL West lead -- will head into postseason play with the firepower to match any pitching staff. Texas, the runner-up in the last two World Series, entered Saturday leading the majors in runs scored, slugging percentage, team OPS and batting average.

Who's hot?

1. Miguel Cabrera » The third baseman is trying to will his team to the playoffs. He has hit four homers since Sunday.

2. Kris Medlen » The right-hander has allowed just three earned runs in 30 innings in September and struck out 34.

3. Ryan Zimmerman » The Nats third baseman has six home runs and 20 RBIs in September.

Who's not?

1. Felix Hernandez » The Mariners ace allowed 16 earned run in his first 16 innings this month.

2. David Wright » The Mets third baseman is sinking right along with his team with a .610 OPS in September.

3. Albert Pujols » The Angels slugger is tiring. With one homer, his slugging percentage this month is .411.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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