- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2012

PHOENIX — For each of the past eight games, the Washington Nationals have been the ones taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes. The ones operating within a margin of error large enough to overcome whatever minor miscues cropped up.

Pitchers were allowed to have off innings, or even entire nights. Their surging offense almost always made up for a missed opportunity here or there. A starter feeling under the weather the way Ross Detwiler was Sunday, as he struggled with sinus and stomach issues, might’ve gone more unnoticed.

But in a 7-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was no break their way to compensate. The loss snapped the Nationals’ eight-game winning streak and gave them their first loss on their 10-game road trip.

“You could tell by his mannerisms he didn’t feel right,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of the left-hander. “All you had to do was look at him. He was taking deep breaths, and he was just showing that he was hurting and he threw [93] pitches and kept us in there. … I was a little worried about him. He had a hard time even standing up after the fourth, but he gutted it out.”

Detwiler, whose day became more difficult when the Nationals committed two errors in the second inning to allow the Diamondbacks first runner to reach base and score, refused to use sickness as an excuse. The way he was feeling, he said, had no bearing on the fact that he left several pitches up, resulting in an abnormally high ratio of flyouts (eight) to groundouts (four).

“The pitches were all up, and they were able to get the barrel on it and not beat it to the ground,” Detwiler said. “If I’m feeling bad and I still get my pitches down, then I get outs and it looks a whole lot better. I don’t think that’s the excuse why I did bad at all.”

The trouble began began with an error on third baseman Ryan Zimmerman that allowed Paul Goldschmidt to reach second to lead off the second inning. It was made worse as Goldschmidt stole third and scampered home when catcher Kurt Suzuki’s throw sailed into left field.

“The errors,” Johnson said, “just add to the misery.”

Detwiler never appeared to be hit that hard, and he stuck with his formula to throw almost exclusively fastballs, but there were small issues that snowballed. Two hit batters, two of the three hits he allowed going for extra bases, even a screaming line drive back at his face that the left-hander snared with his glove as his last act.

Detwiler finished with 4 2/3 innings having allowed just three hits and a walk, but five runs (four earned), with two strikeouts and two hit batters were tacked on, one let in by Craig Stammen in a four-run fifth.

“Those are the times you go out there and just give it the best you’ve got,” Johnson said. “And [Detwiler’s] was pretty dang good. We just didn’t give him much support when he was out there.”

From the start Sunday, things were just a smidge off for the Nationals.

Bryce Harper reached on an infield hit, but he bowled over first base umpire Mike Muchlinski, thwarting his attempt to advance to second. If Harper had continued on after the collision, he’d have been awarded the base, but thinking he wouldn’t make it, Harper retreated to first. Moments later, Patrick Corbin threw to first, and Harper slipped in the dirt trying to get back. A sitting duck for an easy pickoff.

But that one calamitous and short-lived base runner was the only one the Nationals would have through the game’s first six innings.

Corbin sliced through their slugging lineup with surgeon-like precision, only twice working on a three-ball count in the first six innings.

“He was a little sneaky,” Johnson said. “We didn’t hit him, we couldn’t center on him. We finally got to him a little later, but he was throwing the heck out of the ball.”

The shutout bid ended in the seventh when Danny Espinosa doubled to center to open the frame and the Nationals’ comeback was on.

They made things interesting in the ninth when Cesar Izturis and Michael Morse hit back-to-back doubles, and Tyler Moore hit a missile of an RBI single off the left-field wall. They brought the tying run to the plate in Roger Bernadina, but he struck out to end the game.

• Amanda Comak can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com.

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