After splitting yesterday’s straight doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers (77-72), the Washington Nationals (90-58) will have to play at least one more game before clinching a playoff berth that will mark the first for a D.C. baseball team in 79 long years.
With a win in the first game of the doubleheader, the Nationals ensured that they would live to play more than 162 games this year as they clinched a worst-case scenario that involves a 163rd game – one that would decide the winner of the second National League Wild Card.
Now, with their NL Wild Card magic number sitting at one, they can ensure that the 163rd game never happens by taking tonight’s game – and the series – from the Dodgers.
Still, Nationals manager Davey Johnson is concerned with only one thing.
“The only thing that means anything to me is when we clinch the [division],” Johnson said. “That’s the only thing I’m concerned with.”
To claim their right to October baseball, the team will have to look past last night’s blown call and look forward to Dodgers left-hander Chris Capuano, who will take the hill opposite Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler.
Having pitched all eight years of his career in the NL, including a stint with the New York Mets, Capuano (11-10, 3.60 ERA) has been able to familiarize himself with the Nationals. In fact, in 46 innings pitched against them in his career, he has recorded 43 strikeouts. On the flip side, he has never beaten them when pitching at Nationals Park, losing all three of the starts he has made in the district.
Since enjoying a stellar first half, which included a win over the Nationals on April 29, Capuano’s success has dropped off. His post All-Star break record stands at 2-6 with a 4.64 ERA and he has not won a game since besting the Miami Marlins on August 12 for his 11th win of the year. Capuano’s most recent outing resulted in an 8-5 loss to St. Louis after he managed just 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits while striking out two.
In seven career starts against the Nationals, Capuano is 3-3 with a 4.20 ERA through 46 innings pitched.
Detwiler’s (9-6, 3.16 ERA) success in the second half, however, is a near mirror image of Capuano’s.
Though his record stands at just 5-3, Detwiler’s 2.86 ERA is among the lowest of all Nationals starters since the All-Star break. He is 2-0 through his last four starts with a 2.66 ERA and pitched a gem in last Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Braves. He allowed only a single run on seven hits and a walk while striking out five through six innings.
Tonight, he will look to earn his first career double-digit win season as he takes on a Dodgers team that handed him a tough loss in his April 27 start.
In two career starts and a relief appearance against the Dodgers, Detwiler is 0-1 with a 3.77 ERA through 14 1/3 innings pitched.
You can expect the Nationals lineup to be back in order tonight as nearly a week’s worth of rest did Michael Morse some good while a cortisone shot to the left shoulder of Danny Espinosa allowed him to play in both games of yesterday’s doubleheader. Both came up big in the nightcap, leading the Nationals to a six-run comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning.