Instant Analysis: Nats take series vs. D-Backs

Instant Analysis: Nats take series vs. D-Backs
May 4, 2012, 1:38 am
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Nationals 2, Diamondbacks 1

Game in a nutshell: Given his first opportunity to bat third in the big leagues, Bryce Harper delivered again. The rookie's one-out double in the bottom of the sixth brought home Ian Desmond to put the Nationals ahead, his latest contribution in a key spot. Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, kept doing what he's been doing all season: shutting down opposing lineups with ease. The left-hander allowed one run in 6 13 innings, then handed things over to his bullpen. Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez combined to record the final eight outs and secure the Nationals' seventh series victory in eight tries.

Hitting highlight: It's not just that Harper has great athletic ability (which he does). The 19-year-old is also a very smart ballplayer with a true gameplan every time he steps to the plate. Just look at his sixth-inning RBI double. With the infield drawn in, Harper shortened his swing and poked an outside pitch down the left-field line to score Desmond with the go-ahead run. Harper now has an incredible four extra-base hits in his first 16 big-league at-bats.
Pitching highlight: Technically speaking, Detwiler is a No. 5 starter, but that's in name only. There's no other No. 5 starter in baseball pitching the way the left-hander is right now. With 6 13 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball, Detwiler lowered his already-low ERA to 1.59 and his WHIP to 0.99. He's allowed one earned run or fewer in four of his five starts to date. Could the Nationals actually bump him to the bullpen in another week or two when Chien-Ming Wang returns from the DL? It's really difficult to see that happening.
Key stat: Harper's run-scoring double in the bottom of the sixth was the first RBI by the Nationals' starting No. 3 hitter since Ryan Zimmerman homered against the Astros on April 19, a span of 11 games.
Up next: You've been waiting for this for months: It's "Take Back Our Park" weekend as the hated Phillies come to town. The Nationals couldn't have scripted a better scenario for Friday's 7:05 p.m. opener, with NL Pitcher of the Month Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.13) facing right-hander Kyle Kendrick (0-2, 6.59).