If this was Ross Detwiler's only chance to show the Washington Nationals he belongs in the Major Leagues, he made a pretty good impression.  The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft made the best of his spot start, allowing a two-run home run to Aramis Ramirez on his final pitch, but otherwise shutting down the Chicago Cubs, earning the win in a 3-2 victory before 19,181 at steamy Nats Park.

The Nats inch above the .500 mark again at 44-43, tied with the New York Mets for third in the N.L. East, 11 games behind division-leading Philadelphia.

Detwiler pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up just four hits in the process.  He did not walk a batter, something that has plagued him his entire professional career, though he only struck out one, and that was the opposite pitcher to boot.  But he generated a lot of ground ball outs and kept the Cubs off the scoreboard -- until that last pitch.

After the game, manager Davey Johnson admitted he made a mistake.  He didn't want Detwiler to face Ramirez in the sixth inning, but he didn't get right-handed reliever Todd Coffey up quickly enough to get him properly warmed up. "I was slow on the draw," Johnson explained.  "I wanted to get Coffey ready for Ramirez, and I didn't get him up for Ramirez, so I take that one on me."

But it wouldn't have been a Nats win if it weren't a one-run ballgame.

As they've done most of the season, the bullpen came in and did their jobs.  Todd Coffey, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen (21st save) gave up just three hits over 3 2/3 innings, walked no one and struck out three.  It was as efficient as they've been all season long.

Detwiler may have a chance to stick with the club even if it's not in a starting role.  He was called up to take the spot start because of last Saturday's double-header, but Johnson has said on several occasions he'd like another lefty in the bullpen and would like a long man as well.  Detwiler might be able to fill both of those roles adequately.  He's been good his first time through the rotation in his career, but gets into trouble once he gets stretched out.  This might be a case of form following function.

Johnson joked with reporters before the game that someone would have to wrestle him to get Detwiler off his team.

Regardless of what role Detwiler might serve, the team needs to find more offense, particularly from their two best players, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.

The Nats jumped all over Cubs starter Ramon Ortiz, scoring three times in the first inning.  But once the inning was over, the futility they've been experiencing with the bats was in full evidence.  The Nats were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position all night, and they stranded 10 runners in the game.  No one struggled worse than Werth, the new No. 5 hitter.  Werth went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two ground outs, stranding six base runners.

Werth, who famously signed a $126 million contract in the off-season, is mired in the worst slump of his career.  For the season he's hitting a mere .224/.330/.382, but over the last month or so, his lack of production is alarming.  Since June 1, Werth is hitting a paltry .167/.305/.278 with seven extra-base hits in 131 plate appearances.  In his last 11 games, Werth has struck out 19 times.

Johnson has remained a steadfast supporter of his right fielder, but even he conceded last night that Werth needs to start producing.  "I think he's bottomed out," Johnson said of Werth, who is grounding out at a rate higher than at any time in his career since becoming a regular player.  "I thought he was in a good frame of mind the last three or four days.  I think he's comfortable. I think earlier in the year he was playing 'mentor' a little more than he needed to with some of the young guys. But he's a heck of a ballplayer and I know he gonna start doing the things he's capable of doing."

Johnson hopes, along with the rest of Nats Town, that happens much sooner rather than later.
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THE GOOD:  Danny Espinosa. 2-for-3 with a walk in the second spot in the order.  "The way he's playing, I like him in that two-hole," Johnson said of the 23-year old switch-hitting second baseman.  He's kind of a spark plug and gets us going.  He's swinging good from both side of the plate right now."

THE BAD:  Ian Desmond.  0-for-3 and five left on base. Was ordered to sacrifice with runners at second and third last in the game.  He's hitting .215 this season, and has just five base hits since June 18 (5-for-52).

THE UGLY:  The Nats might have been held to one run were it not for Cubs second baseman Jeff Baker's ugly throwing error in the first inning. With the base loaded, he fielded a Laynce Nix grounder and made one of the worst throws you'd ever see a Major Leaguer make, missing his target by 20 feet.  The ball ended up in short left field, two runs scored and all hands were safe.

THE STATS:  10 hits, four walks, eight strikeouts. 2-for-11 with RISP, 10 LOB, two GIDP. E: Detwiler (1), Cora (3).

NEXT GAME:  Wednesday at 7:05 pm at Nats Park.  Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 3.77) faces Randy Wells (1-3, 6.59).

HARPER WATCH:  In his second Double-A game for Harrisburg, Bryce Harper went 0-for-4 with an RBI and two outfield assists, nailing runners twice at second base trying to take an extra base against him on balls hit to left field.

NATS NOTES:  To make room on the active roster, reliever Collin Balester was designated for assignment.  Though he had an option remaining, because of his service time the team decided that administratively it would be easier to conduct the transaction if they designated him.  He is expected to remain on the 40-man roster once he clears Thursday, and manager Davey Johnson was hopeful to add him back to the active roster as soon as he is eligible.

2 comments

  1. bdrube // July 6, 2011 at 7:01 AM  

    I was originally thinking that Steve Lombardozzi being promoted before the Eastern League All Star game meant he was being groomed for a September callup to try out at 2B with Espinosa sliding over to SS. Now I'm wondering if if isn't a precursor to a possible trade of Desmond before the deadline.

    Desmond's performance just screams out "needs a change of scenery," and given that Lombardozzi is a very good fielder, he could hardly perform worse.

  2. Dave Nichols // July 6, 2011 at 10:54 AM  

    bd, I'll disagree a bit with your assessment. I think Desmond needs to be left alone. I know the org think very highly of him and he's been solid to teriffic defensively since the birth of his child. this is his second year in the big, not a shock that he'd be going through an adjustment period at the plate. Lombo is hitting well, but he's only been at AAA for two weeks. he's not really ready to be pushed to yet another level. gotta be patient this year.