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Detwiler's start goes for naught vs. O's

Detwiler's start goes for naught

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals got a strong start from left-hander Ross Detwiler, but the bullpen struggled in a 2-1 loss to the Orioles at Nationals Park on Saturday night.

The Nationals have lost nine out of their past 10 games and are 12-30 this season.

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The score was tied at 1 when Baltimore scored the winning run in the top of the seventh inning. With a runner on first base, manager Manny Acta brought in left-hander Ron Villone to face left-handed-hitting Aubrey Huff.

Prior to Saturday's game, Villone was clearly Washington's best reliever, tossing 10 scoreless innings. On Saturday, he proved to be human as Huff tripled to left-center to score Cesar Izturis. The run was charged to right-hander Julian Tavarez, who took the loss.

"The ball needed to be down a little bit more," Villone said. "I tried to get a ground ball. It's a game of inches and Huff was able to drive it. Unfortunately, it cost us the game, so it's on me tonight. Every night we are finding ways to get over the hump right now. Tonight, it's on me."

The Nationals had a golden opportunity to at least tie the score in the eighth inning off right-hander Jim Johnson, but they couldn't capitalize on the situation.

Washington had runners on first and second with one out, when Austin Kearns came to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch, Kearns pulled the ball down the third-base line. It looked like the ball was going fair, but it went foul just as it went past the third-base bag.

On the next pitch, Kearns hit into an inning-ending double play.

"We can't complain now," Acta said. "We scored enough runs before. Now we are just pitching better and the runs are not there. Things are not going our way right now. No complaining. The guys are playing hard."

Detwiler, the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, made his second Major League start, and it was much better than his first one. He lasted six innings and gave up one run on just one hit.

"What I'm impressed with is the stuff that he is showing," Acta said. "That's what we envisioned when we drafted him. He even threw some pitches that were 95 mph and threw some good changeups today. So I hope he continues to build his confidence and pitches effectively for us up here."

The only time Detwiler was in trouble occurred in the third inning. He walked three batters, including pitcher Koji Uehara, to load the bases. Detwiler acknowledged that he lost his focus in that inning, but the damage was minimal.

Nick Markakis came to the plate and hit a slow ground ball between shortstop and third base. Ryan Zimmerman grabbed the ball and was thinking about throwing to second base for the forceout to end the inning. But Willie Harris wasn't covering second base, and Zimmerman had nowhere else to throw as Gregg Zaun scored on the play.

Zimmerman knew before the play that Harris was not going to cover the bag, according to Acta.

"Harris was playing Markakis to pull," Acta said. "Harris told Zimmerman that a ball to him, he should go to first base. Harris just bluffed [going to second]. Zimmerman was not going to second base."

But the Nationals would tie the score in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Cristian Guzman took a Brian Bass pitch out of the park for his second home run of the season. The run helped Detwiler get a no-decision.

"I lost my release point a little bit [in the third inning]," Detwiler said. "It threw my focus off. After a trip from [pitching coach] Randy [St. Claire], and [catcher] Josh [Bard] coming out a couple of times, I got back in the zone."

The Orioles could have done more damage to Detwiler. In the first inning, Adam Jones hit a deep fly ball to center field. Justin Maxwell went back to the wall, leaped and made a spectacular catch to rob Jones of a home run.

Detwiler is used to seeing Maxwell make great catches. When they were at Class A Potomac in 2007, Maxwell made a great catch with Shairon Martis on the mound.

"Martis and I were talking about it after the game," Detwiler said. "It was just unbelievable. I turned around and watched the play. With Maxwell, there is always a chance it's going to be caught no matter where it is."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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