WASHINGTON – Once again Bryce Harper was a catalyst and Ross Detwiler was superb as the Nationals edged the Diamondbacks 2-1 at Nationals Park.
Harper was moved into the No. 3 spot in the lineup by manager Davey Johnson and he responded by hitting an RBI double down the left field line in the sixth inning that scored Ian Desmond with what turned out to be the game-winning run.
“I want to win every single game and I am going to try to come up as clutch as I can in those situations,” Harper said. “I love those situations in the game, any kind of situation and I was trying to get something rolling for the team and it was good to get the W tonight.”
But it was also his hustle on the base paths from the 19-year-old which had everyone talking after the game.
After Harper doubled, Jayson Werth grounded out to third baseman Ryan Roberts and on the play, Harper gauged what kind of throw was being made by Roberts and he took off for third, making it easily. Harper was stranded when Chad Tracy flew out to left to end the inning but the hustle he showed was praised by his teammates.
“He has baseball instincts,” said Werth. “He is a baseball player. When you are a baseball player, you can be 15 or you can be 50. If you know how to play the game, you can play. The only thing you have to worry about is staying healthy. That’s the big challenge for all of us — no matter how old you are. He is a good player. No question about it. He is definitely going to be a force in this lineup for a long time.”
Harper is hitting .375 after five games with six hits, four of them doubles and three RBI. He has shown off his arm during his first week in the Majors and he has shown off his speed and aggressiveness.
“He’s 19-years old and he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he plays the game hard,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “Regardless of whether he gets hits with runners in scoring position or whether he hits 500-foot home runs, anything like that, the kids a ballplayer and at 19-years old to be that far along, it’s impressive.”
Some people think Harper might have been brought up too soon but with this club it may just be the right fit for him to succeed the fastest.
“He has been good,” Werth said. “He is focused. I think he is where he needs to be. The Minor Leagues are tougher than people realize. I like him here, with the right coaches, the right manager, and the right teammates. I think that is going to help his development more than him being anywhere else.”
Detwiler’s performance was just as impressive as Harper’s play. The left-hander threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on three hits.
“Det pitched one heck of a ballgame,” said manager Davey Johnson. “That’s a good hitting ballclub and he made quality pitches. I was really impressed with Det. He gave me a good six-and-a-third, a gutty performance against a good hitting ballclub. He came back after a tough loss and he was my star of the game.
Detwiler’s statistics through the first month of this season are downright gawdy. He is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 28 1/3 innings pitched in five games. He has struck out 21 while walking just nine.
Detwiler says there is a friendly competition between the starters on the staff to try and make sure no one misses a beat.
“From top to bottom we are always competing with one another to see who can have the better week and that’s tough to come by around here,” says Detwiler.
Knowing Detwiler was battling with John Lannan for the fifth spot in the rotation toward the end of spring training before Lannan was eventually sent down to Syracuse almost seems laughable at this point.
“It would have been tough to put Ross in the bullpen,” Werth said. “Nothing against John Lannan, and what he did last year, and what he did in the last few years. It’s more of a tough-luck situation for Lannan. I think he is capable of pitching in the big leagues. No question.”
“But Ross really forced their hand, I think. It would have been tough to put him in the pen — for me anyway. I think they made the right decision. You watch (Detwiler) pitch last year, and the stuff he has, and then what he did in Spring Training. Having him as our fifth starter, that’s tough. You go into a series — it depends on how you look at it. He is your fifth, or he pitches before Strasburg, and I like that. It’s good for us. He has done a good job this year.”