The Washington Nationals defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 last night to ensure their seventh series win of the year. Despite a five game losing streak occuring in their last seven games, the team has still only lost one series all season, and that was to the first place Los Angeles Dodgers. They remain 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.
Ross Detwiler helped the club clinch the series win in the rubber-match last night by outpitching last year's 21-game winner Ian Kennedy. The 26-year-old was able to do something Jordan Zimmermann and Edwn Jackson could not, calm a hot Arizona lineup who had recorded 24 hits in the series' first two games. In 6.1 innings pitched the left-hander allowed just one earned run on three hits, and three walks. With the win he improves to 3-1 on the year, and now boasts a 1.59 ERA, which ranks seventh in the National League.
As we predicted prior to the game, Kennedy provided a really tough match up for the Nats lineup. He worked the corners, stayed on the plate, and forced Washington to earn nearly everything they got. We wrote that the best chance Washington had was to capitalize on any mistakes given up by the right hander, that's just what they did. In the fourth inning they scored with the help of a one-out balk which moved Jayson Werth to third base. A routine ground out to first by Rick Ankiel the next at bat gave Washington their first run. Without that balk, the Nats would have scored just one run on the night.
Bryce Harper also contributed an RBI double in the sixth to give Washington the go-ahead run.
- Bryce Harper played the hero again last night with the crucial RBI in the sixth inning. What I found most interesting about his performance yesterday was that the Diamondbacks consistently tested him with fastballs away. When you look at his ridiculously violent swing, this is no surprise. There are very few, if any batters in the league who put that much torque, and that much energy into their swings. Just by looking at it, you'd assume that he would have to be a dead pull hitter. Harper took an outside fastball, however, and drove it the other way to the left field fence for the game winning run. Do you think the Diamondbacks will test the outer half of the plate on him again?
- A lot of people have given Detwiler a hard time for his inconsistency in the past, but I think a lot of that has to do with his age more than his ability. To me, this season he has been one of the most consistent players on the Nationals. The best part about his approach is that he completely understands his arsenal. He understands what kind of stuff he has, and he understands what that means in terms of his approach. He has a strikeout curveball and a ground out fastball. You hardly ever see the 26-year-old challenge a batter unless there are two strikes. He knows when to force the opposing team to put it into play, or when he can use his hook to ring a batter up. At this point, I really never see him developing into an overpowering type of left-hander like Gio Gonzalez, but I think he can be a very, very effective pitcher for years to come in Washington.
- Say what you will about the Nats offense, but they did defeat last year’s league leader in wins (Ian Kennedy) and a guy who entered this series with the best ERA in the National League (Joe Saunders). There's no question that the team needs to pick it up with the bat, but it's good to see them gut wins out against hurlers like this.