Looking back on a tough five-week span

Lost in the late-inning dramatics of yesterday’s 2-1 loss to the Orioles might be the performance of Ross Detwiler, who worked five shutout innings before giving way to the bullpen.

It was Detwiler’s first start in nearly a month, and he battled through an inconsistent strike zone and some fatigue late in his outing to give the Nationals a strong effort.

“I’ve got to tip my hat to Det. Det pitched a gutty ballgame,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He went to his maximum pitches, he gave us a good five innings, shut them out.”

Detwiler made a concerted effort to be more aggressive yesterday, a mentality he tried to carry over from his time working out of the bullpen. It was there where he learned he didn’t have time to mess around with hitters. If he didn’t get ahead of guys, throw strikes and get outs, he’d be coming out of the game.

Through the first three innings, that aggression was there. It tailed off in the fourth and fifth, but Detwiler was able to limit the damage and work through five innings on 82 pitches.

“I thought he threw a lot of quality pitches,” Johnson said. “He pitched a great game, came out of there without giving up any runs. We had a chance to win it, we just made a bad pitch.”

That bad pitch from the left hand of Sean Burnett left the Nationals walking away from the final day of interleague play with a bit of a sour taste in their mouth. But you didn’t find many guys on the team hanging their heads leaving the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards yesterday.

How could they given how this team has played of late?

Yesterday’s loss wrapped up a 32-game stretch in which the Nationals played only American League East or National League East teams.

It will likely be the toughest portion of the Nats’ schedule all season long, given that their nine opponents during that stretch are a combined 38 games over .500 as of this morning.

Things certainly could have gone better over the last five weeks. Yesterday’s game was clearly winnable, as were a handful of others during that time. But when you consider the quality of the competition, an 18-14 record over the tough 32-game stretch is certainly impressive.

This five-week span of games was billed as a test for the Nationals. They wake up in Colorado this morning still up 3.5 games in the division and having passed that test.

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