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Detwiler matures into winner

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Detwiler matures into winner

It wasn't all that long ago -- really, it might have only been two months -- when Ross Detwiler was best known for putting together four or five quality innings and then fizzling out and turning what could have been a dominant start into a pedestrian outing.

But a funny thing has happened since the 26-year-old lefty rejoined the Nationals rotation five weeks ago. Confident at last in his abilities, secure with his spot on the team, he's taken an important step forward as a big-league pitcher.

These days, Detwiler isn't fizzling out the deeper he goes. He's getting stronger, a trait that was very much on display Thursday night during a 3-0 victory over the Phillies.

"It's a slow process, and you build on positive outings," manager Davey Johnson said. "And he's had a lot of positive outings. He's grown a lot."

The results certainly confirm that. With seven more scoreless innings in this game, Detwiler now boasts a 2.55 ERA in seven starts since rejoining the Nationals' rotation.

And he's putting less pressure on his bullpen to finish what he begins. Detwiler has now made 45 starts in the major leagues. He's only reached the seventh inning eight times, but four of those have come in the last month alone.

"At the end, he's giving me that extra inning," Johnson said. "He used to -- after he'd thrown about 80 pitches or something -- had trouble going that extra mile. He tried to do too much instead of just staying within himself. Tonight he was just the same guy all the way through the seventh inning. And it's fun to watch."

Making this game all the more fun for a crowd of 28,825 to watch: The sight of Jayson Werth patrolling the outfield at Nationals Park for the first time since May 6, plus the sight of Adam LaRoche rounding the bases following his 20th home run of the season.

Werth, who was originally expected to come off the disabled list Friday, bumped his return up a day after a two-hit showing at Class A Potomac. As a result, he found himself in familiar territory, facing the same opponent (his former club) and same pitcher (Cole Hamels) from the night he broke his left wrist.

"It was just a coincidence," he insisted. "I felt like I was ready. I didn't really see what the point was to continue to play games in the minor leagues. I wasn't getting a whole lot out of it."

Werth looked perfectly ready to face big-league pitching, going 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI groundout. The guy hitting in front of him, though, put on the bigger show at the plate.

While nearly every other member of the Nationals lineup has succumbed to injury at some point this season, LaRoche has been a steadying force. His second-deck blast in the bottom of the second inning was his 20th homer of the season, tops on the club. And with a run-scoring single one inning later, LaRoche added his team-best 64th RBI, further erasing the sour memories of his injury-plagued 2011.

"It feels like last year is a distant memory now," he said.

"He's been a constant all year long," Johnson added. "He's got big hits when Ryan Zimmerman was down, Michael Morse was down. He's the guy that carried us through it, him and Ian Desmond. He's the glue in the infield. He goes a lot of times unnoticed, but not by me."

Staked to the three early runs driven in by LaRoche and Werth, Detwiler took his game to a new level. After laboring a bit early on, putting six guys on base through three innings, he proceeded to retire the last 14 Phillies he faced, completing the seventh inning with his pitch count at a scant 88.

It was merely the latest example of Detwiler's growth as a big-league starter, which he attributes to the confidence he now exudes knowing his role on a first-place club.

"It's just falling into a routine," he said. "That's when I get comfortable: When I can fall into my routine. I know I'm going to be here starting now, so it makes it a little easier."

Detwiler figures to be an important part of the Nationals' rotation straight through September, and perhaps beyond. He actually boasts a lower ERA (3.02) than Stephen Strasburg (3.12), Gio Gonzalez (3.27) and Edwin Jackson (3.57). Only Jordan Zimmermann (2.28) has outperformed him in that regard.

Zimmermann, of course, was just named NL Pitcher of the Month for July, joining Strasburg and Gonzalez as members of the Nationals rotation to earn such honors this season.

If he manages to keep this up, Detwiler might just thrust himself into the conversation for next month's award.

"I've got to beat Edwin to the punch, then," he said with a laugh.

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Harper's 10th-inning single lifts Nationals past Reds 6-5

Harper's 10th-inning single lifts Nationals past Reds 6-5

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper singled in the winning run in the 10th inning, Brian Goodwin homered twice and the Washington Nationals got a solid performance from their bullpen in a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.

Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy also homered for the Nationals, who trailed 5-2 in the sixth before coming back to deal the Reds their 12th loss in 13 games.

Trea Turner singled off Raisel Iglesias (2-2) with one out in the 10th and took third on a single by Goodwin before Harper hit a liner that struck the right-field wall on one bounce.

Matt Albers (3-1) pitched the 10th to cap an impressive night for the Nationals' bullpen, a maligned group that blanked the Reds on one hit over the final five innings.

Goodwin homered in the first inning and again in the seventh, the first multihomer game of the rookie's career.

Scooter Gennett connected for the skidding Reds.

Seeking his ninth win, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings, walking two and striking out five. It was only the third time in 15 starts the right-hander allowed more than three earned runs, but it was also the third straight start in which he failed to go six innings.

Reds starter Luis Castillo pitched five effective innings in his major league debut and left with a 5-2 lead, but the Cincinnati bullpen deprived him of the victory. Castillo allowed two runs and five hits, walking five and striking out five.

The 24-year-old rookie was replaced by Michael Lorenzen, who promptly served up a home run to Murphy and gave up a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Stephen Drew later in the sixth.

Wandy Peralta took over in the seventh and, like Lorenzen, gave up a homer to the first batter he faced. Goodwin's drive to right made it 5-all.

Early on, Cincinnati dominated.

The Reds batted around in a four-run first inning that featured Gennett's 10th home run, a run-scoring fly ball by Scott Schebler and successive RBI singles from Devin Mesorasco and Jose Peraza.

Goodwin homered in the bottom half, but Mesoraco singled in a run in the third. The two-out bloop landed in front of Wilmer Difo, who was playing center field for the first time in the majors and pulled up as the ball dropped at his feet.

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Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for the third no-hitter of his big league career ended with one out in the eighth inning, and he then gave up two unearned runs as the Miami Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 Wednesday.

After backup catcher A.J. Ellis reached on an infield single for Miami's first hit, an error by first baseman Adam Lind and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. Scherzer threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run, and Giancarlo Stanton lined an RBI single -- the Marlins' only other hit -- to put them ahead.

Scherzer (8-5) threw no-hitters against the Pirates and Mets in 2015, and he seemed on his way to another when he began the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead.

He retired 18 in a row before Ellis hit a chopper that bounced in front of the plate and glanced off the tip of Scherzer's glove as he reached overhead for it. The ball rolled to shortstop Trea Turner, who failed in his attempt to make a barehanded pickup and rush a throw.

MORE NATS: 12-3 win over Marlins Tuesday

Official scorer Ron Jernick immediately ruled the play a hit, and Scherzer knew it. He picked up the ball and angrily flung it to the dugout -- not as a souvenir.

Washington totaled five hits against Dan Straily and three relievers. Kyle Barraclough (3-1) pitched the eighth, and A.J. Ramos worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 10th save.

Scherzer threw a season-high 121 pitches and had 11 strikeouts, reaching double figures for the sixth game in a row, the team's longest such streak such the franchise moved to Washington for the 2005 season.

He lowered his ERA to 2.08, best in the NL. He also leads the league with 145 strikeouts.

The other no-hitter in the majors this year was achieved on the same mound by Miami's Edinson Volquez against Arizona on June 3.

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The crowd of 22,659 for the 12:10 p.m. start included thousands of youngsters on camp day, and they gave the game a scream-filled soundtrack.

The score was 0-0 until Washington's Ryan Raburn hit his first homer of the year in the fifth. Raburn was a late replacement for outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who was scratched because he wasn't feeling well.

That was the only run allowed by Straily, who went six innings.

Scherzer walked Christian Yelich with two out in the first and hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch with one out in the second. That was Miami's last baserunner until the eighth.