September 21, 2019

Washington Nationals playoff hopes now ride on “The Other Guys”

Popular Internet meme, created by @JWerthsBeard and @jackobeam.

All season long, the Washington Nationals have boasted not only of the quality of their starting pitching, but of the depth as well. In Games 3 and 4 of the National League Division Series, they’ll get a chance to prove just that. With ace Stephen Strasburg available solely as a cheerleader and confidante in the playoffs, the Nats post-season success now lies in the right arm of Edwin Jackson and left arm of Ross Detwiler.

Both players have impressive enough pedigrees. Jackson has a no-hitter and World Series ring to his credit. Detwiler is a former No. 6 overall pick in the MLB draft. Both players have established themselves as key components in the Nats rotation this season. But both have also had enough trouble — especially lately and especially against today and Thursday’s opponents — that there is reason to be concerned about how they will react and perform against the St. Louis Cardinals, with the Nats hopes of advancing in the playoffs hinging on their performances.

“They’re quality pitchers,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said in Tuesday’s media availability. “Jackson’s got a lot of experience. He pitched a heck of a ballgame against the [Cardinals] one of the outings. He’s certainly up for it.”

As for Detwiler, Johnson said, “At times has gotten into the same mode [as Zimmermann], hard sinkers away. He’s got great offspeed stuff, and when he uses offspeed stuff, and when he uses both sides of the plate, he’s tough. I don’t care how good a hitting club you got. But this is part of the maturation process of this staff.”

This is a big start for Jackson, both in his responsibility to the Nationals and for his immediate and long-term future. He spurned a multi-year deal last off-season to sign with the Nats for just one year, with the very hope that a strong season and successful post-season appearance would earn the 29-year old a lucrative, multi-year deal that will set him up for the rest of his career. Jackson fulfilled the first part of the equation, going 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 8.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 2012. Wednesday’s start could complete his resume for his off-season pursuit of happiness.

In Tuesday’s media availability, Jackson stressed the simple things as the keys to his success in Game 3. “It’s all about throwing strikes and coming out and establishing that you’re going to throw strikes early in the game,” Jackson said. “And make them want to swing. Like I said, if you get behind in the count to these guys and let them get comfortable and they know you have to come across the plate, they’re going to do what they’re paid to do and they can hit the ball real well.”

Detwiler, the 2007 No. 6 overall selection in the MLB Amateur Draft, has finally started to live up to his pedigree. Stunted thus far in his career by injury and inconsistency, both due to an overly pronounced cross-body delivery, Detwiler has been proving critics wrong all season. He still has an unattractive delivery, but it is much smoother and consistent, allowing his heavy sinker to do much of the damage against opposing batters, allowing the 26-year old to put together an impressive 10-8 season with a 3.40 ERA and 1.223 WHIP.

It’s the biggest start of Detwiler’s young career, but in his media availability Wednesday before Game 3, he joked about how his last start against the Cardinals, a 2 1/3 inning appearance where he allowed seven runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks, was an example of “what not to do,” against a Cardinals team that has power and puts the ball in play, from the leadoff hitter down to the No. 8 spot.

Jackson and Detwiler have both had dominant appearances in 2012, but they also have had their share of disaster starts as well. The Nationals have exhibited confidence in both starters all season long. They’ve even banded together to form “The Other Guys”, a reference to how the two may have been overlooked this season with so much attention to the top three on the Nats staff, based on the Hollywood movie of the same name and a now a popular Internet meme.

But all the attention on Stephen Strasburg, 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t matter at all anymore. The Nats very playoff lives hinge on the performance of “The Other Guys” the next two days. Nats fans hope their performance matches the Nats organization’s confidence in the pair.

__________________________

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Nationals coverage on Twitter @NationalsDSP.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

%d bloggers like this: