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HELLER: Nationals seize NLDS momentum
Question of the Day
• The crowd lets out a roar as the national anthem ends at Nationals Park, and the hope is that it will not be the last significant one of the day heard by Washington's embattled baseball team.
• In the home bullpen, Ross Detwiler seeks to get his fastball hopping and his breaking stuff breaking. Momentarily, the young left-hander is the biggest man in Washington.
• First signs are encouraging. Sinkerballer Detwiler retires the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the first inning without a ball escaping the infield. Compared to the early struggles suffered by Edwin Jackson the previous day, Detwiler seems like the greatest Washington pitcher since Walter Johnson.
• Suddenly, though, there's a new hero in Natville. Adam LaRoche, Washington's 33-homer first baseman during the regular season, just whacked a second-inning pitch from 16-game winner Kyle Lohse onto the berm beyond the center field fence for a 1-0 lead. It isn't much, but the Nats will take it after being outscored 20-4 over the past two days.
• Although the Cardinals tie it with an unearned run in the third, Detwiler comes up big anyway by getting a two-out called third strike on Matt Holliday with the go-ahead run on second. So far those big St. Loo bats are refreshingly silent.
• In the sixth inning of a magnificent pitching duel, the Nats threaten to beat themselves as third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's latest inaccurate throw to second prevents a double play. Once again, Detwiler muscles up by retiring Daniel Descalso with two on and two out in his final inning. Somebody give that man a handshake, or maybe a hug, for keeping the 1-1 game and the Nats' season alive.
• Davey Johnson spins the dice in the seventh by asking Jordan Zimmermann, battered in the Game 2 loss, to make his first career relief appearance. Zimmermann promptly strikes out the side on 12 pitches, making Davey look like a genius for the umpteenth time.
• Johnson tries a real relief pitcher, Tyler Clippard, for the eighth, and he also strikes out the side. The next man out is Lohse, who departs in favor of Mitchell Boggs after allowing two hits in seven innings and getting nothing more satisfying than a tie score.
• Nats closer Drew Storen falters in the ninth, striking out only two of the flutilely flailing Cardinals. Now all the Nats need in the bottom half is for somebody to turn up as Mr. Walkoff,
• They find him in dramatic fashion, and his name is Jayson Werth. The veteran right fielder makes his $126 million contract worth (pun intended) every penny by blasting the 14th pitch from reliever Lance Lynn into the corner of the left-field stands as the crowd of 44,392 goes completely nuts, every Nat comes rushing from the dugout to greet Werth and fireworks erupt over Southeast D.C. So the Nats survive for a decisive Game 5 on Friday night, and nobody can doubt that all the momentum is theirs now.
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About the Author
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