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Ross Detwiler allowed one run and struck out seven over six strong innings.
-- Last night's 2-1 loss to the Reds had to be frustrating on a number of levels, not the least of which was the fact the Nationals had the tying run on third with one out in the ninth before Wilson Ramos grounded into the game-ending double play. But that disappointing finish shouldn't completely overshadow Ross Detwiler's stellar start.
Entering this one, serious questions surrounded the left-hander, who had failed to complete six innings in any of his last four big-league starts dating to last season. So when Detwiler not only went six against the Reds, but allowed only one run while establishing a new career-high with seven strikeouts, team officials had to be encouraged.
The Nationals want to continue to get more looks at Detwiler. Since the day he was drafted sixth overall in 2007, he's been more potential than results, but every once in a while you see an outing like this and realize there may yet be something productive inside that left arm.
-- Sean Burnett gave up a costly tack-on run last night that put the Reds up 2-0 in the eighth instead of a 1-0 deficit that would have been erased by Ryan Zimmerman's ninth-inning homer. It was yet another shaky outing for the reliever, who actually had been pitching well in recent outings.
Burnett had allowed only one run over his last 11 games, spanning nine innings. Only eight batters had reached base, only one of them via walk. So it may have appeared he was finally getting things together after a brutally rough season.
Except we'd barely seen Burnett at all. Last night marked his first game appearance since August 9, meaning he had gone eight full days between outings. That's highly unusual for Burnett, who at his peak would pitch two out of every three days.
Make no mistake: Davey Johnson has lost a lot of confidence in Burnett, whose decline from top setup man to rarely used mop-up man has been swift and painful.
-- In the wake of Stephen Strasburg's ragged start last night in Hagerstown, plenty of eyes will be on the right-hander the next time he takes the mound, curious if it was merely a bump in the road like he expected or a more ominous sign.
Though nothing has been announced yet, all signs point to Strasburg returning to Hagerstown Monday night to face the Hickory Crawdads. The right-hander said last night he would be pitching again in five days, and Hagerstown is the lone Nationals affiliate scheduled to be home on Monday.
What happens after that? Well, if Strasburg remains on a strict, five-day scheduled -- and that's by no means set in stone -- he would next pitch on Saturday, August 27. The only Nats affiliate home that day is Class AAA Syracuse.
Skip ahead another five days, and Strasburg's last rehab start would fall on Thursday, September 1. Who's home that day? Class AA Harrisburg, as well as Hagerstown. You'd have to assume the Nats would prefer he make his final rehab start against an upper-level farm team, so Harrisburg makes the most sense.
And then, if all goes well, Strasburg is lined up to return to the big leagues during the first full week of September. If he stays on a perfect, five-day schedule -- which, again, is no guarantee -- he'd be lined up to start Tuesday, September 6 against the Dodgers. It wouldn't be out of the question, though, for the Nationals to give him one extra day of rest along the way and have him debut on Wednesday, September 7.
In other words, don't buy your tickets quite yet.
-- And finally, Matt Purke will be introduced at Nationals Park at 3:45 p.m. today, the first of the Nats' top draft picks to officially be welcomed into the organization. Purke, the former TCU left-hander who was drafted in the third round amid concerns about his throwing shoulder, wound up getting a four-year, $4 million, major-league contract from the Nationals.
The organization has no concerns about that shoulder. Purke let them administer an enhanced MRI when he visited the ballpark in July, a test that came back clean. GM Mike Rizzo also said the lefty has been throwing all summer at his home in Houston, which suggests he won't need much time to get back on a professional mound.