After a four-hour flight delay, the Chicago Cubs didn't arrive in Washington until 1 a.m. on Monday. Twelve hours later, the groggy Cubs didn't have any luck catching up to the newfound heat of Ross Detwiler.
Firing seven shutout innings of four-hit ball, Detwiler propelled the Nats to a 2-1 Labor Day victory before 23,215 at Nationals Park.
In walking three and fanning three, Detwiler (9-6) showed increased dominance with his fastball. His first 18 pitches registered between 91 and 97 mph before he finally threw an off-speed pitch, which he used for a swinging strikeout of catcher Welington Castillo.
"He's getting real confident in his stuff," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "When he starts using all his weapons, it's going to be easier on him."
Detwiler got help from Drew Storen, who set down the Cubs 1-2-3 in the eighth inning, and Tyler Clippard, who earned his 30th save but not without some stress. The right-hander allowed a run-scoring single by Castillo, threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt and needed a game-ending strikeout of Josh Vitters to strand pinch runner Tony Campana at second base.
Supplying the offense was Adam LaRoche, who blasted his 25th home run in the second inning, and Ryan Zimmerman, who doubled down the third-base line in the eighth to score Bryce Harper.
With the victory, the Nationals (82-52) clinched their first winning season since they moved to Washington in 2005. It is the first winning season for a D.C.-based major league team since the Senators did it in 1969.
"We've come a long way," Zimmerman said. "They've done things the right way. It's been a struggle at times, and it's been frustrating. But I think now we're gonna be set, not just for this year but for a lot of years to come."
One of the building blocks for the future is Detwiler, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2007 draft who has finally developed consistency and confidence after much trial and error when his first three promotions to the majors didn't take.
According to Johnson, Detwiler has grown as he has learned to trust his sinking fastball.
"He wasn't doing what he's really capable of doing and really going after people and overmatching them with a really nasty one," Johnson said.
Detwiler has added velocity throughout the season. In his first start this year, on a 56-degree day in New York, his fastball topped out at 93 mph. On Monday, 52 of Detwiler's 93 pitches came in between 94 and 97 mph. He was at a loss to explain the surge.
"I don't feel any different," Detwiler said. "It's just getting in a routine and getting deeper in the season."
With the confidence and velocity of Detwiler continuing to grow, the Nationals may have more in store for him than his anticipated role as the No. 4 starter in October.
"I think he learned that a 94-mile per hour fastball that moves everywhere is a really hard pitch to hit and he should throw a lot more of those," Zimmerman said. "It's only the tip of the iceberg for him. He's still learning how to pitch."
|Cubs at Nationals|
|Chris Rusin (0-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (8-9, 3.53 ERA)|
|When: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.|
|Where: Nationals Park|
Radio: 106.7 the Fan, WFED 1500, WHFS 1580