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St. Louis native Detwiler has chance of a lifetime

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St. Louis native Detwiler has chance of a lifetime

ST. LOUIS -- Ross Detwiler sat by his locker Friday afternoon, doing the math in his head. The Nationals' magic number at that point was 3. He knew there was a chance he would take the mound today with the Nationals in position to clinch the NL East title, and he knew he really wanted that opportunity, unlikely as he thought that might be.

"You always want to be the guy to do it," he said. "I have a feeling it's going to happen before I get the ball. But it would definitely be a very special moment if I was the person that got handed the ball with a chance to clinch."

Well, turns out Detwiler will get that chance. The magic number is down to 1 this morning, so when the left-hander takes the mound at Busch Stadium, he knows he can pitch the Nationals to their first-ever division title, no matter what anyone else does.

And he can do it in his hometown, in front of dozens of friends and family.

A native of nearby Wentzville, Mo., Detwiler is making his first-ever start in St. Louis against the Cardinals franchise he grew up rooting for from his living room sofa.

"Any time you walk out onto a field that you watched on TV growing up, it's definitely pretty special," he said.

Detwiler has never pitched at the current Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006, but he did play in a high school game at the former Busch, across the street, in 2003.

He and his family made occasional trips into town to watch games from the stands, but the commute from Wentzville -- located 40 miles west of downtown St. Louis -- was a bit too much to allow for regular trips, especially on school nights.

Plenty of folks from his hometown will make the drive in today, though. Not only to see Detwiler try to pitch the Nationals to a division crown, but also to see their beloved Cardinals try to move a step closer to a Wild Card berth.

So, who exactly will the Detwiler clan be cheering for inside the ballpark today?

"I don't know. It's going to be kind of neat figuring that out," he said. "See, the Cardinals have such a strong following. Maybe not out loud, but definitely inside they're all Cardinals fans."

Whether he wins or loses today, Detwiler has firmly established himself as a front-ling, big-league starter this season, five years after the Nationals made him the sixth overall pick in the country out of Missouri State.

Teammates, coaches, even Detwiler himself point to one major reason above all else for his emergence this season: Confidence. At 26, he finally trusts his own ability and takes control when he's handed the ball.

Which is why, on this potentially significant day for the Nationals, Detwiler can't wait to be handed the ball.

"That's what I strive for," he said. "I want to be that guy that gets it done, the guy when you look back you say: 'He won the clinching game.' And then, the chance for that to happen, for it to be in St. Louis in front of everybody I went to high school with and grew up with, it definitely would be pretty special."

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT