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Detwiler's 'awful' start plagues Nats

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Detwiler's 'awful' start plagues Nats

Ross Detwiler could have tried to over-analyze his outing Saturday night, tried to figure out whether it was a mechanical glitch or poor pitch selection or just plain old poor execution that caused him to put the Nationals in big hole and ultimately set the stage for a 6-5 loss to the Orioles.

In the end, though, the process was less significant to the left-hander than the end result.

"I mean, give up six in five innings?" Detwiler said. "That's awful."

"Awful" might be a bit too strong of a description. But for a Nationals rotation that hadn't put forth an outing like this in quite some time, it certainly didn't measure up to the usual standard.

In fact, no Nationals starter had surrendered six earned runs since Livan Hernandez did it against the Mets on Sept. 4, 2011, a span of 63 games. And this one perhaps stung a little more because Detwiler's teammates managed to rally from the 6-0 deficit he created and nearly came all the way back before a raucous crowd of 42,331 (second-largest in ballpark history).

"I feel terrible about it," Detwiler said. "Because our team was out there, the hitters were ready to hit. They put up five runs on that pitching staff. ... We need to win when we do that."

The Nationals still nearly did win. Despite putting only two men on base through their first four innings against Orioles starter Jason Hammel, manager Davey Johnson's reconfigured lineup finally began producing after it trailed by six.

With RBI from Steve Lombardozzi (filling in for a benched Danny Espinosa), Rick Ankiel, Carlos Maldonado and Roger Bernadina, the Nationals trimmed the lead to 6-4 in the sixth. They nearly added to it in the eighth, stranding a man on third when both Bernadina and Espinosa hit the ball hard ... but right at Baltimore outfielders. Then they did draw within one in the ninth when Ryan Zimmerman belted a Jim Johnson pitch to left for his first homer since April 19.

"It can't always happen in a game where you jump out to a lead and cruise home," said Zimmerman, who went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .250. "This team handles adversity well, and we battle to the last out. We did that again tonight, and that's all you can ask for."

Well, you could've asked for the game-tying run, though that would've required a clutch hit from Adam LaRoche, who has been the Nationals' best run-producer all season but has fallen into a funk since the Orioles showed up in the District.

After striking out on a 3-2 sinker from Johnson to end the game, LaRoche finds himself 0-for-9 with four strikeouts (and a walk) in this series.

"I'm actually seeing it alright; I'm just going outside the zone," the first baseman said. "I had a couple chances to take some walks ... and I haven't done it. I've been chasing it. I need to get back in and pull the ball back in a little closer and be a little more selective."

Late rally or not, this game was decided in the first five innings, when Hammel (5-1) cruised and Detwiler (3-3) labored. Detwiler found himself in trouble nearly from the moment he stepped to the mound, and in doing so continued a disturbing trend.

Owner of a 2.10 ERA only six days ago, he's now allowed 10 earned runs and 16 hits over his last 10 innings. As a result, that ERA now stands at 3.65.

"I mean, I know I can do it," he said. "I know I'm here for a reason in this role. It's like, you just kind of have to take it for what it is and go after the next one."

Is there a chance Detwiler won't get many more starts to right his ship? Perhaps.

Chien-Ming Wang started for Class AAA Syracuse on Saturday, his fifth rehab start while recovering from a strained hamstring. The veteran right-hander is scheduled to appear in one more minor-league game before coming off the disabled list, at which point the Nationals have to make a tough decision.

Before Saturday's game, Johnson dropped a bit of a surprise, saying Wang likely will go to the bullpen once he joins the big-league roster. It wouldn't be the ideal move, because Wang does not profile well as a reliever. But it would keep the talented Detwiler in the rotation.

Given the manner in which Detwiler has struggled his last two times out, though, few would be shocked if Johnson has a change of heart.

"Everybody says it's a good problem to have, but probably not for the questions I'm going to get asked in this room," the manager said. "Because there's no easy choice."

Another start like this from Detwiler, and Johnson might have no choice but to make the change.

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others