WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Ross Detwiler had the best start of his young career, but the Nationals ended up losing to the Reds, 2-1, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.
Detwiler pitched six innings, allowing one run on seven hits and striking out a career-high seven. He also tied a career high with 103 pitches, 64 for strikes. His fastball was clocked as high as 95 miles per hour.
Detwiler's only blemish came in the first inning. After striking out the first two hitters he faced, he allowed a solo homer to Joey Votto. Nationals manager Davey Johnson was not happy about Detwiler's pitch selection to the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. The skipper felt the left-hander should have thrown a breaking ball instead of a fastball.
"I wasn't real pleased that he didn't show the breaking ball to Votto when he gave up that home run," Johnson said. "He went right after him with the fastball. He is just too good of a hitter."
Detwiler even showed that he could get out of a serious jam. In the third inning, the Reds had the bases loaded with one out, but Jay Bruce struck out swinging and Miguel Cairo popped up to second baseman Danny Espinosa to end the inning.
"Detwiler had his poise and threw the ball well," Johnson said. "I was pleased with the six innings he gave us."
Detwiler said he was successful because he was able to throw a lot of sinkers and stay ahead in the count.
"I tried to keep them off-balance that way," Detwiler said. "I threw a lot of sinkers against the Cubs the last time out. I think too many, and they started sitting on it and driving the ball the other way. Tonight, I worked well with [catcher Wilson] Ramos and went in and tried to keep them off the sinker a little bit. I threw a lot of sinkers, but I kept them down. The one to Votto was obviously a four-seamer, and it was not down."
The Reds would add one more run in the top of the eighth. With the bases loaded, one out and reliever Ryan Mattheus on the mound, Ramon Hernandez grounded out to Espinosa, but Bruce ended up scoring on the play.
Unfortunately for Detwiler, Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto was better, allowing just a leadoff homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth, which knocked him out of the game.
"He had some serious deception going on," shortstop Ian Desmond said about Cueto. "I faced him three times at the wind up and one time in the stretch. He was hiding the ball pretty well. He was throwing his fastball with good life and sink at 96, 97. Obviously, he had his curveball going pretty well."
Cueto gave way to closer Francisco Cordero. After he induced Michael Morse to ground out, Jayson Werth walked and Danny Espinosa singled over the head of second baseman Brandon Phillips. Jonny Gomes then reached base on an error by shortstop Paul Janish to load the bases.
It was Ramos' chance to at least tie the game. It was pretty obvious that Cordero was shaky, and it would appear that Ramos would likely take a pitch. That wasn't the case. Instead, Ramos swung and hit into a game-ending double play.
"It was not pretty, I admit that," said Cordero, who earned his 24th save of the season. "At the same time, we got the 'W'. It doesn't matter. Johnny pitched an unbelievable game. I didn't want to give up that run or lose that game, because Johnny has been so good."
The Nationals ended up going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Washington's best scoring opportunity against Cueto earlier in the game came in the fourth inning. The Nationals had runners on first and second and no outs, but Morse, Werth and Espinosa couldn't get the run in.
"Our problem was that we had guys on third with less than two outs and we didn't get anybody in -- double play one time and pop up the other. We have to get better than that," Johnson said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.