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MacDougal rediscovering form

MacDougal rediscovering form

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DENVER -- Nationals closer Mike MacDougal is grateful he hooked up with pitching coach Steve McCatty.

When MacDougal, a former All-Star in 2003 with the Royals, was released from the White Sox on April 29 and inked a Minor League deal on May 3 with the Nationals, he was sent to Triple-A Syracuse, where McCatty was pitching coach at the time.

When he entered Washington's organization, MacDougal had sported a 12.46 ERA in five appearances with the White Sox. He needed help, and McCatty provided it for him.

"When I came over here, he really helped me out with my confidence and my fastball," MacDougal said. "It's not so much the physical, but the more mental aspect of it."

Each time McCatty worked with MacDougal, he told the pitcher to believe in himself, have confidence in the pitches he threw and challenge hitters. McCatty improved MacDougal's fastball by reminding him to stay with three pitching mechanics: keep the left shoulder closed, stay on top of the ball in a three-quarters arm slot and just stay within yourself and not overthrow.

At Syracuse, an improved MacDougal compiled a 3.24 ERA in eight appearances. The Nationals called him up on May 29, and on June 6, manager Manny Acta named MacDougal his new closer after giving Joel Hanrahan a pair of opportunities to seize the job. Hanrahan and outfielder Lastings Milledge were traded to Pittsburgh on June 30 for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and left-hander Sean Burnett.

Since MacDougal earned his new role, he has gotten the job done with five saves with a 1.38 ERA. Even though it's a small sample size, has MacDougal found the All-Star form that saw him save 27 games in '03?

"I don't know," MacDougal said. "I don't really think about that. I just want to pitch and compete and try to get three outs."

Pitching matchup
WSH: LHP Ross Detwiler (0-4, 5.81 ERA)
Detwiler started against the Braves on Friday and lasted 3 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on 10 hits. He said he had a good bullpen session before the game. By the time the game started, however, it was clear to Detwiler that he had a problem with his release point. Most of his pitches were up in the strike zone.

COL: LHP Jorge De La Rosa (5-7, 5.14 ERA)
De La Rosa is riding a career-high three-game winning streak and arguably had his finest outing of the season Friday, as he threw eight shutout innings of four-hit ball with four walks and six strikeouts in a 5-0 win over the D-backs. Arizona didn't have a player reach second base until the sixth inning and had only three players overall accomplish such a feat. De La Rosa showed the tantalizing promise he always had, as he enjoyed complete command of all four of pitches -- fastball, slider, curveball and change. In his last six starts, De La Rosa is 5-1 with a 4.67 ERA after beginning April and May winless.

Tidbits
The Nationals have lost five straight to the Rockies dating back to last season. ... Josh Willingham hit his 10th home run Tuesday. All 10 have been solo shots. ... Jordan Zimmermann's four-inning outing Tuesday snapped a three-game streak of Nationals starters pitching at least seven innings. ... Shortstop Cristian Guzman is 0-for-8 this series and will have only Wednesday left to impress fans in the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN 2

On radio
• WFED 1500, SBN 1390 (Español), ESPN 730 (Sp.)

Up next
• Thursday: Nationals (TBD) vs. Astros (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Nationals (John Lannan, 6-5, 3.45) at Astros (Russ Ortiz, 3-4, 4.11), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Nationals (Scott Olsen, 2-4, 6.04) at Astros (Roy Oswalt, 5-4, 3.81), 8:05 p.m. ET

Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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