LAKELAND, Fla. — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson fought off sleep well past 11 p.m. on the east coast Saturday night to watch Ross Detwiler pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
He was rewarded for his efforts when the Nationals’ left-hander turned in a tremendous four-inning performance to help the USA beat Italy and set-up a winner-take-all showdown with Canada on Sunday afternoon. The winner will advance to the second round of the WBC in Miami.
“He looked great,” Johnson said Sunday morning in Lakeland, before the Nationals took on the Detroit Tigers. “I knew he was going to do good. That was a big shot in the arm for their bullpen. I hope (our) game’s over early so I can see that game against Canada.”
The plan, originally anyway, was for Detwiler to follow Team USA starter Ryan Vogelsong to the mound on Saturday night in Arizona. The Nationals left-hander would piggy-back the San Francisco Giants’ righty and pitch against Italy. But Vogelsong was pulled in the middle of the fifth inning and Detwiler relieved Jeremy Affeldt, who completed the fifth, when he began the sixth on the mound.
In four innings, Detwiler allowed just one hit and struck out three. He looked strong, throwing 51 pitches (36 strikes) and allowing the USA relievers to be saved for Sunday’s game. Detwiler is at his best when he was getting ground-ball outs, and he did that on Saturday, with the help of an impressive play by second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Detwiler tweeted a pitcher of the game ball in his glove in the wee hours of Sunday morning and gave a shoutout to Phillips for snaring a hard ground ball and making a throw to first from his back to end the sixth inning.
Johnson admitted that, proud as he was of Detwiler, quipping “that’s maybe my other left-hander in the ‘pen,” he couldn’t keep his eyes open for the game’s final frame.
“I said, ‘Oh Ross, I’ll read about that last one tomorrow,’” Johnson said, chuckling.