Aces Wild

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You’ve heard all season about the aces of the Nationals pitching staff. The numbers posted have been gaudy, often pacing the rest of the National League. And while the offense has come on strong thanks to the resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman and the return of injured players (welcome back, Jayson Werth!), the pitching has continued to lead the way. In fact, three Nationals starters rank in the top 25 in the league in ERA since the All-Star break, including two in the top 11: Jordan Zimmermann (0.75, third), Ross Detwiler (1.75, 11th) and Edwin Jackson (2.92, 23rd).

What, you were expecting someone else?

The truth is, the “back end” of the rotation has outperformed the two All-Stars of the staff so far in the season’s second half. Even John Lannan – who has made only one start, but will make his second of the month in the doubleheader today – would rank tied for 17th at 2.57.

Ross Detwiler shut down the Phillies Thursday night.

Zimmermann was rewarded for his success, as he took home National League Pitcher of the Month honors for July. All he did was go 4-0 with an ERA under 1.00 over six starts, striking out 31 while walking just four. In so doing, he joined Stephen Strasburg (April) and Gio Gonzalez (May) as the first trio of teammates to win the award since the Astros had four pitchers – Ken Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, J.R. Richard and Joe Niekro – do so in 1979, 33 years ago.

Zimmermann was honored before Wednesday night’s game, when Detwiler took the hill opposite Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Detwiler stifled the Phillies, shutting them out on just three hits over seven strong innings, retiring the final 14 batters he faced. After the game, the lefty mused jokingly that he needed to beat Jackson to the punch in order to take down the award in August. Informed that he had a lower ERA than Strasburg and Gonzalez since his return to the rotation, Detwiler was quick to point out Zimmermann’s exploits.

“But Jordan’s still got me?” he asked. “I’ve got work to do.”

That’s the approach everyone in the rotation takes: go out there and try to one up the last guy. It has served them well so far, as Washington’s staff continues to lead the Major Leagues with a 3.26 ERA entering play on Friday.

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