WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Ross Detwiler pitched seven solid innings to help the Nationals top the Cubs, 2-1, at Nationals Park on Monday afternoon.
The Nationals reached a milestone this day, winning their 82nd game of the season, a team record since moving to D.C. after the 2004 season.
"That is huge for the city," Detwiler said. "Obviously we are not done yet. But somebody like Ryan Zimmerman, who has been here [almost] the whole time -- he has been on losing teams year in and year out. We are actually performing now up to our standards. I'm actually happy for him to be on a winning team."
Zimmerman has been with the Nationals since September 2005. He was on the roster when the team lost more than 100 games in 2008 and '09. But he is currently on a team that has the best record in baseball.
"We have come a long way," Zimmerman said. "You can't try to start an organization like we did here from the ground up and expect that to happen really quickly. We have gone through the process. The [front office has] done things the right way. It has been a struggle sometimes, and it has been frustrating, but I think we are going to be set, not just for this year, but for a lot of years to come."
The Nationals appear to be set with Detwiler (9-6) in the rotation for quite some time. He scattered four hits and struck out three batters. It helped that Detwiler didn't rely solely on his fastball. He mixed in some breaking balls, which helped him get out of some jams.
"His fastball still has the tremendous sink," manager Davey Johnson said. "He pitched more up than I would have liked to see him. Early on, he tried to use the breaking ball and he used a couple of changeups. He is just getting better. He is real confident. When he starts using all his weapons, it's going to be easier on him."
The Cubs had runners in scoring position three times against Detwiler, in the second, fourth and fifth innings. In the second, the Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs, but Dave Sappelt grounded out.
Two innings later, the Cubs had runners on first and second once again with two outs, but Josh Vitters flied out to Bryce Harper in center field to end the threat. During the next inning, Sappelt singled to start the inning and advanced to second base on a sacrifice by Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Sappelt was left stranded at second after Joe Mather and Darwin Barney both flied out.
"I was able to get ahead in the count," Detwiler said. "I threw offspeed early and I had a good feeling for it late. The curveball was up a little early in the game. I kind of got lucky and got away with it. Later in the game, it helped me, especially with that double play in [the seventh inning]."
Samardzija was solid on the mound as well, pitching seven innings and allowing a run on seven hits. His only downfall occurred in the second inning, when Adam LaRoche hit a solo homer that landed in the second deck in right field.
"You love playing against these kind of teams," Samardzija said. "When you're a team in our situation, any time you can play these first- or second-place teams where they're still playing for something, the games mean a lot and they're fun games. I love pitching in these games, and we've got a couple more big ones coming up, too, against Pittsburgh. So we've got some good teams on the schedule, and we've got to play [well]."
The Nationals scored their final run of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning against reliever Jeff Beliveau. Harper led off with a single and then scored all the way from first on a double by Zimmerman.
Tyler Clippard sealed the win by saving his 30th game of the season despite allowing an RBI single to Welington Castillo in the ninth. Clippard became the third reliever -- Chad Cordero and Drew Storen are the others -- in Nationals history to save 30 games in a season.
Clippard has come a long way from the pitcher the Nationals acquired after the 2008 season. He started his Nats career as a starter. The next year, the team decided that Clippard was better suited as a reliever.
When he rejoined the Nationals after a stint with Triple-A Syracuse, Clippard was a long reliever. The progression would continue in 2010, when he became a setup man. By May of this year, Clippard became the closer after Henry Rodriguez was unproductive in that role. Clippard said he wanted to become a closer ever since the Nationals made him a reliever in '09.
"It was something that took place. It was something I wanted to do throughout this whole year," Clippard said. "I got a chance, took advantage of that, and it snowballed from there. But more importantly, it has been fun to contribute to the type of season that we are having. That is the most enjoyable part for anyone in this clubhouse."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.