In each of his three starts this season, Ross Detwiler has pitched like someone who aspires to a higher calling than “Number 5 Starter.” Wednesday night, he finally got his first win of 2013, as seven strong innings combined with a bullpen performance reminiscent of last season led to a 6-1 win for the Washington Nationals over the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.
Detwiler had been staked to leads of 4-1 and 5-1 in his first two starts of the season only to see his bullpen squander the advantages. On this night though, the Nationals were able to score enough to dissuade any Miami comeback plans in the late innings, with Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano wrapping up the game with scoreless frames.
For his part, Detwiler now sits sixth in the National League with a 0.60 ERA after hurling seven one-run innings against Miami on Wednesday, striking out five and throwing a career-high 107 pitches. Amazingly, 100 of those 107 pitches were fastballs, either the four-seamer or the sinking two-seamer Detwiler employs with such great success.
“He’s a great guy to look at if you want to see that he uses his best pitch 85 percent of the time,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said to MLB.com’s Adam Berry. “And the fastball, a well-located fastball, is still the hardest pitch to hit in the big leagues. I think some people forget that sometimes.”
Suzuki, elevated to the everyday catcher’s role with the hamstring injury to Wilson Ramos, was everywhere. He drove in Washington’s second run of the game in the second inning on a sacrifice fly, then made it a 3-0 game in the fifth with solo homer to left that almost disrupted operations at the Clevelander, undoubtedly the most interesting place at Marlins Park this season.
He wasn’t done there, tripling to lead off the seventh and scoring on an RBI single by Steve Lombardozzi, once again filling in for Danny Espinosa at second base. Espinosa, with the bruised forearm suffered on Sunday, took some ground balls before Wednesday’s game but is shooting to be back in the Washington lineup on Friday night in the Nationals opener in New York.
Harper, meanwhile, collected four hits despite the lingering effects of the stomach flu that kept both he and Denard Span out of Tuesday’s game. Span was sufficiently ill enough to miss Wednesday’s game as well, and Harper probably could have used another night off himself. But instead, the 20-year-old shook off an in-game vomiting spell and persistent nausea to record his second career four-hit game, earning an RBI in the ninth inning by beating out an infield single.
“I was still struggling. The biggest thing was trying to keep everything down and fluids down,” Harper said afterward to Berry. “I think getting in the box and swinging made my head spin a little bit. It was just a matter of trying to have good ABs and trying to get some knocks and trying to help the team out.”
With the series win over the Marlins, the Nationals now sit at 9-6, 3 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in what will surely be a tightly-contested National League East race. Washington now heads to New York to await the Mets, who still have to wrap up a snowy series in Denver on Thursday afternoon. Washington will send Stephen Strasburg (1-2, 2.95 ERA) to the hill on Friday night at Citi Field against New York’s Matt Harvey (3-0, 0.82) in a battle of two of the top young pitchers in the National League.