Pitching in his hometown, Detilwer can notch the clinching win

ST. LOUIS - Ross Detwiler was pretty down on himself after his last start, calling his performance in the Nationals' series-opening loss at Philadelphia "embarrassing."

Detwiler allowed five runs over five innings Tuesday against the Phillies, an outing which you could tell stayed with him in the days afterward.

Today, Detwiler has a chance to atone for that outing by helping the Nationals clinch the NL East, and he has a chance to do it in his hometown in front of dozens of family members and friends.

A St. Louis native, Detwiler will take the mound at Busch Stadium for the first time in his big league career and will face the team he grew up cheering for.

"I think he'll do great," manager Davey Johnson said. "I know he's going to have a bunch of passes here. This is a great environment to play baseball in. I've always loved coming to St. Louis. Great fans. They always have good teams here. It's a fun place to play.

"From last year to this year, (Detwiler's) steadily got to know who he was. He's been much more consistent. He's becoming a pitcher. He still has some growing to do, but he knows who he is and knows what he needs to do to be successful up here."

Detwiler will be teaming up with catcher Kurt Suzuki this afternoon, despite the fact that this will be Suzuki's ninth straight start. Normally, managers turn to their backup catcher to start a day game when it follows a night game, but with the Nationals one game away from clinching, Johnson is, as he says, putting his best foot forward.

"Very simple. He's really been playing well," Johnson said. "It's not time to rest.

"He's said on occasions before, 'I want 'em all.' The way he's playing, he might get 'em all."

On most day games, the Nationals' clubhouse fills up slowly in the morning. Some guys get in early to get in their work, while others trickle in little by little.

Today, the clubhouse was filled pretty early. Guys were in watching TV, playing cards, joking around and getting ready for what could be the clinching game. The sense of urgency has picked up just a bit with the NL East crown within reach.

"This is what we've been shooting for from Day One," Johnson said. "... This feeling never gets old. This is what you strive for when you show up in February at spring training. As you guys know, I felt like this is where we're going to be, and I'm proud of what those guys have done. We're not quite there yet."

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