By Tom Schad
Ross Detwiler was born in St. Louis and graduated from Wentzville Holt High School, a mere 45 minutes outside the city. But when it comes to home-cooking, nobody is happier to be back in Washington than the Nationals lefty, who will start Game 4 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday afternoon.
The 26-year-old has been two completely different pitchers at home and on the road this season. Away from Nationals Park, he’s 2-6 with a 4.38 ERA. But when he toes the rubber at home, he’s 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA.
“I think it’s just a routine thing,” Detwiler said before Game 3 Wednesday. “I’m able to get in the routine here. I have my places I go before starts at home, and obviously on the road you’re in a different city, so you can’t do that. So hopefully that’s what it is and I’ll go about that tomorrow.”
Detwiler doesn’t set alarms for the morning before a start. He wakes up when he wakes up. He doesn’t eat big meals either, opting instead to eat continuously throughout the day. Judging by Detwiler’s strong home outings so far this year, that simple routine seems to do the trick.
The Nationals’ southpaw will need to make sure he’s comfortable Thursday, as Game 4 will undoubtedly be the most pivotal start of his young career. If Washington wins Game 3, he could help clinch the franchise’s first berth in the National League Championship Series. But if the Nationals lose, they’ll be looking at Detwiler to turn in a strong performance and help save their season.
“We’ll see where we’re at tomorrow, tomorrow,” he said. “But today, hopefully [we’ll] go out there and get a winner and [I’ll] be able to close it out tomorrow.”
Detwiler will be the benefactor of a long break between consecutive outings. His last start was a full 10 days ago, on the road at St. Louis, where gave up seven runs, walked five and lasted only 2 1/3 innings. Detwiler said he’s had a lot of time to reflect on that start and make any necessary corrections. He is 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in starts after six days of rest or more.
“I kind of look at it like an All-Star break,” he said of the time off. “I was the one of the first ones done before the All-Star break and I was one of the last ones to go after the All-Star Break… I think it was the same there and I came back strong.”
Despite Detwiler’s youth and relative inexperience, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he has nothing but confidence in his Game 4 starter. Detwiler was 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA during the regular season, despite beginning it in questionable territory as the team’s fifth/sixth starter.
Johnson credited pitching coach Steve McCatty with the maturation of the staff as a whole, and said Detwiler is no exception.
“He has really come a long way,” Johnson said. “He’s got outstanding stuff and he’s got good poise. I have never seen him get really rattled by the situation.”