Detwiler, Nationals "remember how it feels" to lose Game 5, fuels hunger for 2013

The Nationals made a big splash this week at baseball's Winter Meetings, agreeing to a one-year deal with former Angels right-hander Dan Haren.

Haren arrives with 119 career victories as a three-time All-Star, and would solidify one of the best starting rotations in baseball. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler already in the fold, the Nationals were looking for a fifth starter to help them match up against any scenario and in any series.

With Haren in the fold, the former Pepperdine star would instantly be the most tenured of the starters, and provide more big-game experience to a relatively young crew.

Detwiler told me early in the week he didn't believe Haren would be the No. 5 starter for the Nationals, but really just the fifth of five extremely talented hurlers.

"I am not sure where he is going to fit in," Detwiler said. "I don't know if he is going to be (No. 5). It looks like I will be (No. 5) again and that is fine. I think it worked out well last year and then you add the veteran leadership and what he can bring to the table pitching-wise."

It is another very gracious statement from a humble pitcher who really is not giving himself enough credit.

After all, it was Detwiler that literally saved the Nationals' season in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. Down two games to one against the Cardinals, Detwiler stepped on the mound at Nationals Park in October after the team's starters had surrendered 11 runs in the first three games. The Nationals had lost the previous two games in the series by a combined score of 20-4.

The Nationals needed a stopper in their most important game in the infancy of their organization. And like a No. 1 starter, Detwiler delivered a gem.

Firing 104 pitches in six innings, Detwiler gave up only three hits, one unearned run, and held the game at 1-1 into the seventh. Jayson Werth's line-drive home run in the bottom of the ninth won the game.

But it was Detwiler that sent a message to everyone that he was a pitcher capable of coming up big against the defending champions in a must-win scenario.

Detwiler says the Nationals do not forget what happened in the five-game loss to the Cardinals, and use that series as motivation for 2013. Werth made sure of it.

"Everybody was kind of shocked," Detwiler said. "We were all sitting there at our lockers, just staring straight-forward. And Werth came through and said, 'Remember how this feels. Remember it is going to make you more hungry for next year.' After everything kind of sank in and it took a while, but you look back on it and that is exactly what it is. We are going to get back after it."

Detwiler said the experience of being the best team in the regular season and not being able to continue that past the first playoff series is all they need to think about as they gear up for 2013.

"Having the best record during the regular season last year, we were the team to beat and we got beat," Detwiler said. "I think we might have let our guard down a little bit or what have you, but I think it is going to be better for us in the long run. We know how it is to lose and it will give us a little more of the hunger."

Having Detwiler alongside Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and likely Haren in 2013 provides the Nationals with what they feel is a bunch of No. 1s. Adding Strasburg's 200 innings-plus to that core makes it an even stronger force. And they all remember what happened against the Cardinals.

Detwiler is a huge part of the strength of these five, whether he realizes it or not.

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