The continued evolution of Ross Detwiler

Stephen Strasburg (April), Gio Gonzalez (May) and Jordan Zimmermann (July) have all now been named National League Pitcher of the Month this season.

That leaves Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson as the only two Nationals starters yet to win the award.

“I’ve got to beat Edwin to the punch, then,” Detwiler said after tonight’s 3-0 win over the Phillies.

It’d be fair to say he’s off to a good start in August.

Detwiler worked seven scoreless innings tonight, allowing just three hits and two walks. He retired the final 14 Phillies hitters he faced and got 11 groundouts to just three flyouts.

“I was real proud of Det. He was outstanding,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He had outstanding sink. They couldn’t center on it. A lot of ground balls. Trying to get down on it, hit some pop ups. But that was dominant. He’s still so young up here. His pitch count, once he’s settled in here and has got a bunch of wins, I’ll be letting him go further. But that was just an unbelievable outing.”

Detwiler didn’t get off to a great start, allowing baserunners in each of the first three innings. He benefited from a Bryce Harper rope of a throw to home plate in the second, which gunned down John Mayberry Jr., and then worked out of another jam in the third before going on an unhittable streak over his final four innings.

“I think after that throw from Bryce into home, I kind of looked inside myself and said, ‘You know, everybody’s trying really hard out here, and I’ve had a lot of baserunners on the first three innings,’ ” Detwiler said. “It really made me settle down at that point.”

“He started the game amped up and then he started just getting confidence,” Johnson said. “(He) hit his spots and made it look easy.”

Detwiler relied almost entirely on his fastball tonight; of his 88 pitches, 78 were heaters. He threw 56 four-seamers and mixed in his two-seamer, which had nice, hard downward movement. He was aggressive in the strike zone, something which has been an emphasis for him lately.

Since rejoining the starting rotation on June 24, Detwiler has been stellar. He’s posted a 2.55 ERA in seven outings, four of which have seen him allow zero or one earned run.

“It’s just falling into a routine,” Detwiler said. “That’s when I get comfortable, when I can fall into my routine. I know I’m going to be here starting now, so it makes it a little easier.”

“You get opportunities you want to make the most of them,” Jayson Werth said. “You don’t want to let them go and I think that when he got the second opportunity (in the rotation), I think that kind of hit home for him a little and he’s stepped up his game from there. But he’s young, he’s learning.

“I’ve spent some time with him in the video room talking about guys on the bases and stuff like that, and he’s real receptive to his craft and he wants to get better. He wants to work. It’s paid off for him. It showed tonight.”

Detwiler still has just 45 career starts in the big leagues and is continuing to evolve as a pitcher. He can tend to get frustrated if he feels calls aren’t going his way or if he allows a crooked number early in a game.

But over the course of this season, the Nationals are seeing Detwiler evolve into the pitcher they’ve believed all along that he can become.

“It’s a slow process, and you build on positive outings,” Johnson said. “And he’s had a lot of positive outings. He’s grown a lot. At the end, he’s giving me that extra inning. He used to, after he’d thrown about 80 pitches or something, had trouble going that extra mile. He tried to do too much instead of just staying within himself. And he was just the same guy all the way through the seventh inning. And it’s fun to watch.”

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