Detwiler delivers in 2-1 loss to the Reds. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)
Last night, Washington Nationals starting pitcher Ross Detwiler matched his career high in number of pitches in a game with 103.  In either a strange twist of fate, or a simple coincidence depending on your point of view, the result in both starts was a one-run loss to the Cincinnati Reds.  In this case, it was a 2-1 final that was in doubt until the last pitch of the game.

On June 9, 2009, Detwiler dropped a 3-2 decision to the Reds.  Like last night, he went six innings in the affair.  Like last night, his offense helped him very little, managing just two runs on six hits.  And in the strangest coincidence of all, just like in last night's loss, the Reds starter (and winner) was Johnny Cueto and Francisco Cordero earned the save.

Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

Last night, Detwiler (L, 1-3, 2.87) pitched much better than he did that night in June of '09.  He limited the Reds to one run -- a solo home run to Joey Votto, his 20th of the year.  Detwiler gave up seven hits and two walks in his six innings, striking out a season-high seven.  It was his most competent start all season, and manager Davey Johnson was happy with the performance.

"I thought he pitched a good ballgame" Johnson said.  "I wanted him to go further than five [innings], I wanted to stretch him out a little bit.  He did a good job.  He got out of the leadoff hitter getting on in the sixth... I was pleased with the way he pitched."

It's just too bad that the Nats offense, which got Chien-Ming Wang off the hook Tuesday night after a rough first inning, decided to take last night off against Reds starter Cueto.

Cueto (W, 9-5, 1.89) was masterful, using a funky delivery where he would turn his back to the batter during his wind-up, much like Cuban hurler Luis Tiant did in the 1970s.  Cueto generated a lot of weak ground balls off the Nationals bats, and took a shutout into the ninth inning.  Ryan Zimmerman ended that bid -- and Cueto's night -- with a leadoff solo home run to the seats in the Red Porch.

The Nats tried to rally against Reds closer Francisco Cordero and had the fiery reliever in trouble, loading the bases with one out courtesy of a Jayson Werth walk, single by Danny Espinosa, and an error by shortstop Paul Janish on Jonny Gomes ground ball.  But rookie catcher Wilson Ramos swung at Corderos' first offering, a 90-MPH slider off the plate, and grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Wilson Ramos chases a slider, grounds into double play. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)
Cueto's final line was stellar: in eight innings he allowed one earned run on six hits and no walks, striking out five.  The Zimmerman home run was the only blemish of the evening.

On this night, like that night two-plus years ago, Detwiler deserved a better fate.  But the 25-year old lefty's performance meant more than a win down the stretch for a team trying to finish the season by reaching the elusive .500 mark.  He's battling for a place in next season's rotation, and the year after that, and the year after that.

Detwiler knows that the Nats have prospects in the minors, and more coming as the result of Monday's signing day.  This is his opportunity to finally live up the billing of being the No. 6 overall selection in the 2007 draft.  He took care of what he could control last night.  Maybe next time out his offense can get him some runs.

THE GOOD:  Detwiler.  He showed good stuff, recording seven Ks in his six innings.

THE BAD:  Sean Burnett.  He was awful, allowing two hits (both to lefties) and a walk in a third of an inning.

THE UGLY:  Ramos' double play.  Cordero was shaky in the ninth inning, issuing a walk to Werth and getting visibly upset at Janish's error.  Ramos swung at a bad pitch and did the Reds a favor. It's one thing to be aggressive in that situation, but you have to be smart aggressive, not go up flailing at the first pitch you see.

THE STATS:  Seven hits, one walk, five strikeouts.  0-for-8 w/RISP, seven LOB, one GIDP.  No errors, one DP.

NEXT GAME:  Thursday at 7:05 pm against the Reds.  Jordan Zimmermann (7-10, 3.23) hosts Bronson Arroyo (7-9, 5.31)

All photos C.Nichols/Nats News Network