- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | Ross Detwiler has miles to go before he can claim to be lumped into the same class of pitchers as Cole Hamels.

At 25, Hamels already owns a World Series ring, MVP awards from the World Series and National League Championship Series and 48 big league wins.

At 23, Detwiler would settle for one win in the majors at this point.

That milestone didn’t come Thursday night for the Washington Nationals’ rookie left-hander. Hamels was far superior, carrying a perfect game into the sixth and surrendering just one run in eight sterling innings to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-2 victory.

Detwiler, though, wasn’t to blame for this loss. In his return to the Washington rotation, the former first-round pick put forth one of the best of his 11 starts to date, allowing only one run in five innings. That wasn’t enough to earn the win, but it was enough to earn the praise of his coaches and teammates.

“There’s not a lot of young lefties that have a swing-and-miss fastball,” catcher Josh Bard said. “I think, as he gets comfortable with his mechanics, he’s going to throw the ball even harder. … I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

If Detwiler needs a pitcher to model himself after, Hamels wouldn’t be a bad choice. Both have similar body types and repertoires. Hamels, though, has experience and results. And Thursday night, he had it all. Unable to complete a perfect outing, the Phillies ace nonetheless capped a series sweep with a five-hit, 10-strikeout gem.

“That’s as good as we’ve seen him this year,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

One by one, Hamels retired Washington’s batters with ease. Through five innings, not a single one reached base. And only a few managed to make solid contact.

It didn’t help matters that Wil Nieves injured his left hamstring while running out a grounder in the third, forcing Riggleman to turn to Bard. With Jesus Flores already out until March after shoulder surgery, the Nationals were down to one healthy catcher.

And since there weren’t any other catchers on the organization’s 40-man roster, general manager Mike Rizzo was forced to make a move of desperation. By the end of the night, he acquired veteran Jamie Burke from the Seattle Mariners for cash considerations. Burke, who has 184 games of big league experience and 12 years of Class AAA experience, is slated to join the club Friday in New York.

“At this time of year, they’re hard to come by,” Rizzo said. “We didn’t have any in-house candidates, so I went through my roster of guys and names, and his popped up as a guy we thought we could get.”

The Nationals could use an offensive boost. They’ve scored only three runs in their past 31 innings, putting added pressure on their young pitching staff.

To his credit, Detwiler was up to the challenge in his first major league start since July 8. The rookie, who went 0-5 with a 6.40 ERA in his first stint at this level, sorely wants to earn his first career win before this season ends. He deserved it Thursday, allowing only one run and four hits while striking out six, but that was not good enough on this night.

“When I was up before the All-Star break, I was just trying too hard to get that [win] and trying to make everything perfect,” Detwiler said. “Now I’m just able to relax [and not worry about it].”

The Nationals, intent on capping Detwiler’s innings count for the season at 140, pulled him after the fifth and will give him only one more start this season.

Even if Detwiler doesn’t get that elusive first win this year, Riggleman doesn’t seem too concerned about his mental well-being.

“He believes in his stuff,” Riggleman said. “He’s not going to let numbers dictate to him that he doesn’t belong here or anything like that. He walks with an air of confidence around that says, ‘I can’t wait till I pitch. When’s my next day?’ ”

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