ST. LOUIS -- Ross Detwiler sat by his locker Friday afternoon, doing the math in his head. The Nationals' magic number at that point was 3. He knew there was a chance he would take the mound today with the Nationals in position to clinch the NL East title, and he knew he really wanted that opportunity, unlikely as he thought that might be.
"You always want to be the guy to do it," he said. "I have a feeling it's going to happen before I get the ball. But it would definitely be a very special moment if I was the person that got handed the ball with a chance to clinch."
Well, turns out Detwiler will get that chance. The magic number is down to 1 this morning, so when the left-hander takes the mound at Busch Stadium, he knows he can pitch the Nationals to their first-ever division title, no matter what anyone else does.
And he can do it in his hometown, in front of dozens of friends and family.
A native of nearby Wentzville, Mo., Detwiler is making his first-ever start in St. Louis against the Cardinals franchise he grew up rooting for from his living room sofa.
"Any time you walk out onto a field that you watched on TV growing up, it's definitely pretty special," he said.
Detwiler has never pitched at the current Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006, but he did play in a high school game at the former Busch, across the street, in 2003.
He and his family made occasional trips into town to watch games from the stands, but the commute from Wentzville -- located 40 miles west of downtown St. Louis -- was a bit too much to allow for regular trips, especially on school nights.
Plenty of folks from his hometown will make the drive in today, though. Not only to see Detwiler try to pitch the Nationals to a division crown, but also to see their beloved Cardinals try to move a step closer to a Wild Card berth.
So, who exactly will the Detwiler clan be cheering for inside the ballpark today?
"I don't know. It's going to be kind of neat figuring that out," he said. "See, the Cardinals have such a strong following. Maybe not out loud, but definitely inside they're all Cardinals fans."
Whether he wins or loses today, Detwiler has firmly established himself as a front-ling, big-league starter this season, five years after the Nationals made him the sixth overall pick in the country out of Missouri State.
Teammates, coaches, even Detwiler himself point to one major reason above all else for his emergence this season: Confidence. At 26, he finally trusts his own ability and takes control when he's handed the ball.
Which is why, on this potentially significant day for the Nationals, Detwiler can't wait to be handed the ball.
"That's what I strive for," he said. "I want to be that guy that gets it done, the guy when you look back you say: 'He won the clinching game.' And then, the chance for that to happen, for it to be in St. Louis in front of everybody I went to high school with and grew up with, it definitely would be pretty special."