The old baseball cliche says that good pitching cures all ills. Ross Detwiler, in yet another fabulous performance, provided the antidote to what had ailed the Washington Nationals tonight, pitching seven innings of shutout baseball to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies and their high-priced ace Cole Hamels, 3-0.
Detwiler’s (6-4) performance, along with two innings of shutout relief from Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, gave the Nationals their 62nd victory and salvaged the final game of the three game series, averting a sweep at the hands of the hated Phillies, who, just two days earlier, had traded away 2/3 of their starting outfield. With the win, the Nationals maintained a 2 1/2 game edge on the Atlanta Braves, who defeated Miami tonight.
On the night Jayson Werth returned to Washington, hitting 6th and playing centerfield, the Nationals struggling offense battled Hamels (11-6) tooth and nail, scratching out eight hits, a walk, and three runs. Adam LaRoche led the attack, going 3-4, with two RBI. Werth provided the third RBI on a ground out.
LaRoche’s second inning solo home run was the game’s biggest hit, giving Washington and Detwiler a 1-0 lead. The Nationals added two more runs in the third inning.
Detwiler took over from there. After working out of jams in each of the first three innings, he retired the last 14 batters he faced, reducing his ERA to 3.02. Of course, behind nearly every great pitching performance is a good defense. In the 2nd inning, with Philadelphia runners on first and second and one out, Michael Martinez singled to right and John Mayberry stormed around third base. Bryce Harper charged the ball and threw a perfect one-hop strike to catcher Sandy Leon for a crucial out. Detwiler struck out Hamels to end the inning.
With two out in the 8th, Stephen Lombardozzi robbed Kevin Frandsen with a great stop and leaping throw of a ground ball up the middle, giving Burnett a perfect eighth for his 24th hold.
In the 9th inning, Tyler Clippard struggled to find the strike zone and walked two batters with two outs. Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel then played his trump card, sending slugger Ryan Howard up to pinch hit. With the somewhat disappointing crowd of 28,825 on their feet, Clippard pumped in two strikes. With Howard expecting a pitch to chase, Clippard threw a fastball, thigh high on the inside corner. Home plate umpire Marvin Hudson immediately ruled strike three. With that, Clippard had his 21st save and the Washington Nationals had a much needed win.
Champ of the Game: Detwiler, who has pitched to a 2.55 ERA in his last seven starts (thanks to Washington Times Nationals reporter Amanda Comak for this information).
For Philadelphia, Hamels fanned 9 in seven innings of work.
Chump of the Game: Nationals’ third base coach Bo Porter, who inexplicably sent slow-footed Adam LaRoche home on a fly ball to shallow right field. Porter had a bad series as the Nationals, who scored only 5 runs in the series, had two runners thrown out easily at home.
For the Phillies, the entire offense, except for Chase Utley (1-2, 2 walks) sputtered as the Phillies lost their 58th game (the club lost 60 games total in 2011).
Unsung Hero: Harper, who continued to slump at the plate, going 0-4 (give the kid a day off, Davey!), made the defensive play of the game, turning the momentum, for the first time in the series, in Washington’s favor.
Next Game: Tomorrow, Friday, August 3. Hey, let’s play two! In a single admission doubleheader, the Nationals take on the Miami Marlins. In Game 1, 4:05 p.m., John Lannan (1-0, 2.57 ERA) takes on Brad Hand (8-5, 3.66 at AAA New Orleans), who is making his first major league start of the season. Both are lefties. In Game 2, Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.27) faces Josh Johnson (6-7, 4.04 ERA).