September 21, 2012
What You Need to Know
Friday, September 21
The Thursday Takeaway
Yesterday’s win merely made official what had been obvious for weeks—that Davey Johnson’s team was one of the best in the senior circuit, and that it deserved a berth in the playoffs. The Nationals held a low-key celebration in their clubhouse after the game, recognizing their accomplishment while also acknowledging that there is plenty of work to be done. For one thing, the National League East remains un-clinched; for another, Cincinnati is right on Washington’s tail, putting the number-one seed and home-field advantage throughout October at stake.
But even as an intermediate step, and a formality, Thursday’s victory was significant for the Nationals, who shut down Stephen Strasburg two weeks ago, then watched the Dodgers shell John Lannan for six runs in 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday. That’s because Ross Detwiler, now a key member of Johnson’s post-season rotation, looked as good as ever, holding Los Angeles to just one run on three hits in six frames, while walking one and fanning five. Detwiler breezed through the Dodgers’ order on 32 pitches through the first three innings, before Mark Ellis went deep leading off the fourth, the only blemish on the left-hander’s line.
As Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore pointed out, Detwiler has now logged a lower ERA (3.10) than Strasburg in nearly as many innings. Barring any injuries during the final two weeks of the season, he figures to draw the Game Four assignment behind—in some order—Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson. And, if the past two months are any indication, the Nationals should be confident that the 26-year-old will give them a chance to win.
In the meantime, they can focus on capturing the East and fending off the Reds, while the Dodgers tackle an increasingly steep climb up the wild-card table. After spending two days as adversaries, the teams now have an opportunity to help each other by helping themselves.
The Brewers are next on Washington’s docket, and the Dodgers would love nothing more than for the Nationals to get Ron Roenicke’s team out of their way. That’s because by beating Pittsburgh, 9-7, on Thursday, Milwaukee moved a half-game ahead of the Dodgers in the standings, putting yet another damper on their already-long odds. The Brewers will send Shaun Marcum to the hill in the series opener, hoping that the 30-year-old—who, incidentally, shares an alma mater (Missouri State) with Detwiler—can halt a disturbing trend that has pushed his ERA up from 3.19 to 3.91 over his last four starts. Marcum fanned a career-high 11 in his lone career start against the Nationals, but that came against a very different roster way back on June 16, 2007, when Marcum was still a Blue Jay and Jackson, who will get the ball for Washington, was busy going 5-15 for the Rays (Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET).
Five minutes after that game gets underway, the Dodgers will take their hacks versus Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo, desperately hoping to gain ground on the Cardinals, who are currently three games ahead of Los Angeles for second place, but play earlier in the afternoon. Arroyo has not yet faced the Dodgers this season, but he has plenty of experience against the slumping Adrian Gonzalez, and the results have not been pretty for the first baseman. Gonzalez is just 3-for-26 in his past encounters with Arroyo, and he remains homer-less since his very first at-bat for L.A. That needs to change post haste, and Joe Blanton—who has served up 29 big flies in 179 1/3 innings this season—is likely to require help from his offense to deliver a win at Great American Ball Park (Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET).
What Else to Watch for This Weekend