After 57 starts in the majors and a season in which the 26-year-old '07 1st Round pick put up a 3.40 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 52 walks (2.85 BB/9) and 105 Ks (5.75 K/9) in 33 appearances, 27 starts and 164.1 IP, Ross Detwiler makes his first postseason start this afternoon in a do-or-die NLDS Game 4 in Nationals Park.
Asked yesterday how he'd prepare to pitch in a postseason game and deal with the pressure of working on a stage bigger than he's ever pitched on before while making sure to treat it like a normal start, the St. Louis-born, Wentzville, Missouri-raised lefty told reporters he wasn't sure what to expect. "It's going to be my first one," Detwiler said, "It's earlier in the day, that way I don't have all day to think about it, so it's just kind of wake up and see how I feel tomorrow and just really during the game try to slow myself down as much as I can."
Detwiler's faced the St. Louis Cardinals he'll meet today just once before in his career. In his final start of the regular season, back on September 30, the Nats' left-hander gave up four hits, five walks and and seven runs, three earned, and threw 81 pitches before he was lifted after just 2.1 IP in what ended up a 10-4 loss to the Cards.
When a reporter wondered yesterday if there was anything he could take from that outing, Detwiler laughed at first, and said, "I try not to remember that one, but really just going out there trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead in the count, make the hitters hit my pitch instead of having to come after them 2-1, 3-1 like I was the whole time and limit the walks, I think I had five or six walks and that's really what ended up hurting me."
"Obviously it was a little bit of a rough outing for Ross Detwiler," Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters after that loss, "I took [Detwiler] out [at] 80 pitches. I didn't want him throwing 90 pitches in 3.0 innings. He's got too good a future and I need him for the postseason. So... just another bad outing early."
Detwiler finished the 2012 campaign with two rough outings, and ending up putting up a 3.73 ERA, 5.71 FIP, 16 walks (4.60 BB/9) and 22 Ks (6.32 K/9) in 31.1 IP in September. The pitcher said the final few starts for him were a lesson, "... in what not to do." The pitcher's plan going forward, he explained is to, "... go out there and attack the zone. Get ahead, make them hit my pitches, keep the ball down, get some ground balls and let my defense work behind me." Detwiler's been watching his teammates and other pitchers in the postseason and the thing he's taken away is that he has to simply keep pitches down in the zone. "Watching all the game on tv and even watching our games," the left-hander said, "I've seen you get hurt when the ball is up in the zone when you're behind in hitters' counts, and you try to stay out of them as much as you can."
"[Detwiler] has really come a long way," Davey Johnson said when asked about how Detwiler has developed since the 69-year-old skipper took over on the bench last season. "A lot of these young pitchers, it generally takes, experience-wise, it generally takes a couple years. These guys have made tremendous progress this year. I give a lot of credit to Pitching Coach Steve McCatty. They know what they're capable of doing, they know what their out pitch is, they know they need to use their secondary pitches more. Sometimes the problem comes with good young arms when they rely too much on their fastball. I've seen [Detwiler] pitch some great ballgames, but he's got outstanding stuff and good poise. I haven't ever seen him get really rattled by the situation."
Detwiler said that having faced the Cardinals recently is actually a positive in spite of the results. "The scouting report is still fresh in my mind," the pitcher said, "It was my last start, so it's the last hitters I saw. I'm going to know how to attack them and how I want to do it." The lefty said he's treating the time off between starts as a sort of All-Star Break. In his first outing following the actual All-Star Break, the starter came back with 7.0 scoreless innings of work on the mound at home against the New York Mets. "I had about 10 days off or so, 11 days off between starts, and I think it was the same there and I came back strong."
The veteran of five MLB seasons has been significantly better at home over the course of his career, (13-7, 3.25 ERA vs 3-15, 4.34 ERA on the road), and again this season when he's gone (8-2) with a 2.59 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 26 BB (2.59 BB/9) and 56 Ks (5.58 K/9) in 90.1 IP in Nationals Park. Detwiler will need to win again today to keep the 2012 campaign alive as the Nationals face elimination in the five-game NLDS with St. Louis.
When Davey Johnson was asked, after Wednesday's loss in Game Three with the Cardinals if he'd considered going to Gio Gonzalez with the season on the line, the Nats' skipper bristled a little at the suggestion and spoke about the team needing more than one win to keep the season going. "We have two more ballgames," Johnson said, "Det's capable of pitching a good game tomorrow. That's been our strength all year. These young guys have pitched great all year. [We] need a couple more good-pitched games this series."
"Detwiler has certainly got the stuff to pitch a good game," Johnson reiterated, "He's pitched some quality games this year. So I look forward to tomorrow."