While Adam Wainwright is the undisputed No. 1 starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals have a couple of pitchers that could hold that title. And it's the least heralded pitcher in their rotation that has been pitching like an ace.
Wainwright looks to shake his recent struggles in the nation's capital when he takes the ball Tuesday night against the surprising Ross Detwiler.
Returning to the site of their stunning comeback in Game 5 of last season's NL division series, the Cardinals (11-8) won Monday's opener 3-2. Allen Craig had a two-run double in the third inning and Yadier Molina drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth for St. Louis, which has alternated wins and losses over its last nine games.
Rookie Shelby Miller put together another impressive outing and now owns a 2.16 ERA, but Wainwright (3-1, 2.48 ERA) is still considered the leader of the rotation.
Wainwright is the only pitcher since at least 1921 that has struck out 25 or more without walking a batter through the first four starts of a season. His 29 innings without a walk to start the season is the third-longest streak in franchise history.
After tossing a four-hitter against Milwaukee on April 13, the right-hander gave up three runs in seven innings of Thursday's 4-3 win over Philadelphia. He struck out four, bringing his season total to 28.
Detwiler (1-0, 0.90) has also done a good job of minimizing walks - issuing three in 20 innings - as well as runs.
The No. 5 starter for a talented rotation led by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, Detwiler has given up one run in each of his first three starts and finally got his first win Wednesday, when he went seven innings against Miami. He left his first two starts with Washington (10-9) ahead 5-1 and 4-1.
"He's definitely not (a typical fifth starter)," manager Davey Johnson told the Nationals' official website. "He's got great stuff and he locates it well. He uses both sides of the plate as good as anybody I've seen. He's still in the learning stages. But he's awfully good just right where he's at."
The left-hander was also pretty good against the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS, allowing one run over six innings as Washington went on to win 2-1.
Wainwright was solid in the series opener, allowing a run in 5 2-3 innings, but in Game 5 he gave up six runs before leaving with one out in the third. The Cardinals, however, managed to rally from that 6-0 hole and advance to the NLCS.
Wainwright has a history of disastrous outings in the nation's capital, allowing 16 runs and 22 hits over 10 innings in his last three starts there. That 14.40 ERA is easily his worst at any ballpark since 2010.
Bryce Harper went 5 for 10 with a homer, triple and double against Wainwright last season, while Jayson Werth was 4 for 10 with a pair of doubles.
Werth, however, is 3 for 18 in his last five games and Harper has gone hitless six times in his last eight contests.
Washington has lost seven of 10, averaging 3.3 runs in that span.
"We're just in a rut," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "When it rains, it pours."
St. Louis' Carlos Beltran had a pair of singles in the opener and is 9 for 20 with three home runs in his last five games. He homered for his only hit in three at-bats against Detwiler last year.
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