The nation may be debating the Washington Nationals' decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg as early as next week, but Ross Detwiler's emergence may be making it easier on the NL East leaders.
Detwiler looks to continue his superb stretch at home in order to win a third game in a row as the Nationals try to rebound from a loss to the Miami Marlins in the middle game of this series Saturday.
Washington (85-53) owns the best record in baseball and leads the division by 6 1/2 games over second-place Atlanta. The franchise seems headed to the postseason for the first time since 1981, when it was the Montreal Expos.
The nation's capital hasn't seen postseason baseball since the original Senators in 1933.
That's precisely why the Nationals' decision to limit Strasburg's innings this year is under intense scrutiny, with the club trying to protect his arm after undergoing Tommy John surgery two years ago. His next scheduled outing Wednesday against New York may be his last.
Washington's five-game winning streak ended with the ace on the mound for Friday's 9-7, 10-inning loss to Miami (62-77). Strasburg gave up five runs and two homers in three innings.
"To be honest with you, I think he just is thinking too much about the decision when we're going to shut him down," manager Davey Johnson said. "And he kind of wore it. He didn't like it. But that's the way it is."
Detwiler's success may give the Nationals confidence in sticking to their decision. The left-hander (9-6, 3.15 ERA) was pulled from the rotation in May after compiling an 8.16 ERA in three starts.
He's been solid since being re-installed for an ineffective Chien-Ming Wang, going 5-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 starts.
Detwiler has been particularly impressive over his last six starts at home, putting together a 4-1 record and 1.37 ERA, and that may continue versus Miami.
He's 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in five games against the Marlins, winning both of his starts while allowing three runs in 11 2-3 innings.
Detwiler gave up all of those runs in 5 2-3 innings Aug. 29, but still earned an 8-4 win at Miami. He followed that up with a dazzling effort Monday, tossing seven scoreless innings while yielding four hits in a 2-1 victory over Chicago.
"He was real special," Johnson said. "He mixed in some breaking balls. Even the ones that were bad were pretty good."
The Marlins are seeking a three-game winning streak for the first time since July 4-6, and Jose Reyes is giving them some punch at the plate.
The shortstop is 7 for 19 with three extra-base hits and eight RBIs in five games, getting two triples among his three hits to go with three RBIs on Friday. He's hitting .483 in six games at Washington this year.
Mark Buehrle (12-12, 3.73) is scheduled to take the mound looking to get off to a better start.
The left-hander gave up all of New York's scoring in the opening inning and pitched seven overall in a 5-1 home loss Sunday, ending a three-start winning streak.
"You just realize you have to settle down," Buehrle told the team's official website. "If you have any chance of coming back, you can't give up many more. You just try to go out there and try to eat up innings."
Buehrle is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Nationals, but he didn't get a decision in a 10-7 loss Aug. 4. He allowed four runs and two homers in six innings.
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