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WSH@PIT: Detwiler allows three runs in five innings

Neither Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija nor Nationals starter Ross Detwiler has pitched much like a one-win pitcher to this point in the season.

Yet that's exactly where each hurler stands, record-wise, as the two prepare to square off on Friday in the opener of a three-game set at Nationals Park.

For Samardzija, who enters with a 1-4 record despite having a respectable 3.09 ERA, much of the problem has stemmed from Chicago's shaky bullpen. The right-hander's lone win came in a dominant Opening Day performance in which he tossed eight shutout innings.

A second victory has eluded Samardzija since, despite limiting the opposition to two earned runs or fewer on three separate occasions. The most recent occurrence came Saturday, when he conceded just one earned run over six innings of work against the Reds and departed with a 4-2 lead.

Though the bullpen was tagged for four runs in the eventual 6-4 loss, Samardzija doesn't blame the Cubs' shaky relief corps for his disappointing record.

"It's out of your hands at that point," Samardzija said. "If you don't want that to happen, pitch deeper in a game."

Wins have also been hard to come by for Detwiler, albeit for a very different reason. The Nationals southpaw hasn't received much run support this season, especially over his past three outings.

Detwiler started the season on a tear, conceding just two earned runs over 20 innings for a 0.90 ERA through his first three starts -- but earned just one win in the process.

Detwiler has collected three consecutive losses despite not allowing more than three runs in any one start. Offensively, Washington has tallied just three combined runs in those three contests.

Though the lack of run support certainly hasn't helped Detwiler's cause, Washington manager Davey Johnson would still like to see the lefty return to his early-season form when he takes on the Cubs. After allowing just one home run in his first five outings, Detwiler allowed a pair of long balls last Friday against the Pirates.

"I've seen him sharper," Johnson said after Detwiler allowed three runs over five innings in the 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh. "He had trouble getting the ball down. The balls he got hurt on were fastballs up, and he hasn't been doing that all year. To me, he had a little command problem. He threw a lot of pitches in a short time. He kept the ball up."

The Nationals are coming off a two-game sweep against the American League Central-leading Tigers, while the Cubs split a pair at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals.

Nationals: LaRoche emerging from slump
It took more than a month, but Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche feels as if he is finally starting to find his swing at the plate.

LaRoche is carrying a season-high six-game hitting streak. After going 2-for-4 with an RBI against the Tigers on Thursday, LaRoche has raised his average from .129 to .196.

LaRoche credited his reemergence at the plate to a one-hour conversation he had last week with former Braves teammate Chipper Jones and Nats hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

"Personally, I've come a long way from a week ago. We are on the right track, so we are getting closer," LaRoche said. "Between Chip and Eck and the three of us sitting down, we dissected the swing and they made some great points. We were trying to compare notes."

Cubs: Gregg officially tabbed as closer
Manager Dale Sveum officially tabbed right-hander Kevin Gregg as the club's closer on Wednesday, ending Chicago's closer-by-committee approach over the past month.

Gregg, signed by the Cubs on April 14, has converted all five of his save opportunities since joining the team.

"The problems we had, it was a great, great pickup, and he's ran with it and done a heck of a job," Sveum said. "[Gregg] is a veteran guy who doesn't panic. He's been in those situations before. Those last three outs aren't made for everybody. He throws strikes and has some life on his fastball. He can work both sides of the plate, that's the good thing about it."

Gregg takes over the role initially held by Carlos Marmol, who was replaced by Kyuji Fujikawa after struggling in the season's opening week. Fujikawa then landed on the disabled list on April 13 with a strained right forearm, but he hopes to rejoin Chicago for the weekend series in Washington.

"Gregg's our closer," Sveum said. "That's pretty much the way it is right now. He's obviously earned it, and there's a bigger sample out there now to know that."

Worth noting
• Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is hitless in 11 career at-bats against Samardzija. Zimmerman has not faced any other pitcher that many times without notching at least one career hit.

• Jayson Werth is likely to be out of the lineup on Friday after dealing with both a tight right hamstring and a stomach ailment that has left him dehydrated. He's been taking antibiotics and had an MRI on the hamstring Thursday.

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