WASHINGTON -- Before Thursday's game, left-hander Cole Hamels manhandled the Nationals this season, allowing one run in 16 innings. It was a different story in the series finale, as Ross Detwiler was the lefty in charge as the Nationals avoided getting swept by blanking the Phillies, 3-0, at Nationals Park.
Detwiler pitched seven shutout innings and allowed three hits, retiring 14 straight to finish his night of work. However, in the first three innings, the Phillies had five baserunners without any of them scoring.
"He got into a little wild spell. He was trying to be fine," manager Davey Johnson said about Detwiler. "It looked like he was trying to overthrow a little bit. He started the game amped up. Then he started getting confidence -- not overthrow, hit his spots and made it look easy. ... You could see he had great movement on his fastball."
The only time Detwiler was in serious trouble occurred in the second inning.
With runners on first and second with one out, Michael Martinez singled to right field. John Mayberry Jr. attempted to score on the play, but Bryce Harper threw out Mayberry at the plate. After the third inning, Detwiler settled down and didn't allow a hit the rest of the way.
"I think after that throw from Bryce into home, I looked inside myself and said everybody's trying really hard out here, and I've had a lot of baserunners on in the first three innings and I really need to settle down," Detwiler said.
Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel took notice that his club wasn't hitting the ball hard against Detwiler.
"Detwiler threw a lot of fastballs," Manuel said. "He moved it around. Had a good sink on it. [We] only hit one ball hard of off him, I thought -- the single to right field by Utley [in the first inning]. That's the only ball we squared up on him. He was pretty good. We were hitting some weak ground balls. We only hit two popups in the air to the outfield. We didn't ever hit one real good."
First baseman Adam LaRoche, arguably the most consistent hitter on the Nationals this season, drove in two runs. In the second inning, LaRoche hit Hamels' first pitch into the second deck in right field to give Washington a 1-0 lead. It was LaRoche's 20th home run this year, and marked the eighth time in his career he has hit at least 20 home runs in a season.
"It was a good start for us, get on the board early, especially after we lost the first two games," LaRoche said. "We had been pretty stagnant, not a lot going. We put some big hits together today. We had some good baserunning and got it done."
What a difference a year makes. Last year, LaRoche missed most of last season because of a left shoulder injury. This year, he is arguably Washington's MVP. He is hitting .270 and leading the team in home runs and RBIs (64).
"Last year is a distant memory now," LaRoche said. "It's nice to be back, and for the most part, healthy and happy to be playing. To sit out last year and miss all that, it was a little bit humbling. ... It was a little incentive to get back out there, and it's working out."
Johnson is one person who has noticed how valuable LaRoche has been this season.
"He has been consistent all year long. He got big hits," said Johnson. "[Ryan Zimmerman] was down, [Michael] Morse was down. LaRoche was the guy that carried us through it -- he and [Ian] Desmond. Adam is the glue in the infield. He goes a lot of times unnoticed, but not by me. He is outstanding. It's nice to beat [Hamels]. That guy is tough."
In the bottom of the third inning, Washington added two more runs against Hamels. With runners on first and second with one out, LaRoche singled to center to send Zimmerman home.
Jayson Werth, who missed the previous 75 games with a left wrist fracture, followed LaRoche and grounded out for the second out of the inning, but Michael Morse scored on the play. Werth ended up going 1-for 3 in the game.
With the victory, the NL East-leading Nationals improved their record to 62-42, leading second-place Atlanta by 2 1/2 games.
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.