WASHINGTON -- The Cardinals took Monday's series opener, 3-2, setting the stage for Tuesday night's battle between St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and Washington's Ross Detwiler.
As the Nationals try to even the series, they will be playing behind their best pitcher so far this season.
Detwiler, a Wentzville, Mo., native and former Missouri State pitcher, will go against his once-local team carrying a 0.90 ERA, the best in the National League. The 6-foot-5 lefty had a strong outing in Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series against St. Louis and has yet to allow more than one run in any start this season.
Detwiler has been enjoying this success despite -- or perhaps because of -- his fastball-heavy arsenal. He has thrown his fastball a Major League-leading 92.5 percent of the time, mixing a four-seamer with a sinking two-seamer.
"That's what Ross does," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "He's got a little deception. He's a tall guy, throws really hard, got a lot of movement on his fastball, keeps the ball down in the zone but can elevate the ball when he wants to. He's not afraid out there. Hitters know he's going to throw his fastball, and he goes out there and he challenges guys. That's what makes him so good."
Wainwright also has been on his game this season, going 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in four starts. More impressively, he has racked up 28 strikeouts without a single walk in 29 innings, making him the first hurler since 1900 to notch 25 or more strikeouts and no walks in his first four starts of the year. He also is closing in on the Cardinals' all-time record for walk-free innings (40), set by Slim Sallee in 1913 (Pea Ridge Day is second, at 29 2/3 innings in 1925).
"I know this is going on," Wainwright said on Friday. "I am being deliberate about it, that's kind of my intention going out."
Cardinals: Lineup more than sum of its parts
St. Louis began Monday fourth in the National League in runs despite ranking 12th in batting average and OPS. That's due in large part to how the team has hit with runners in scoring position: an MLB-leading .368 average, including .408 with two outs, entering the day.
Several Cardinals have struggled at the plate this season, with five regulars hitting .250 or below and only one having more than two home runs.
"We're fighting right now, and a number of these guys would say they're not where they want to be on offense," manager Mike Matheny said. "But overall, we just have to figure out ways to keep making it happen."
Nationals: Rendon introduces himself to home crowd
Top prospect Anthony Rendon made his Major League debut in place of injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on Sunday in New York. He went 0-for-4 in that contest but fared better in his first game at Nationals Park on Monday, slicing a game-tying RBI double into the right-center-field gap for his first big league hit and RBI in the fourth inning.
Manager Davey Johnson said there is no doubt Zimmerman will reclaim the third-base job when he comes off the disabled list, but in the meantime, the 22-year-old Rendon believes he can contribute.
"I feel awesome," Rendon said. "I'm pretty confident I can be here, but there's only one way to find out. I've got to try to go out and see if I can play up here, and we'll see what happens."
• Closer Rafael Soriano was out on paternity leave on Monday, following the birth of his son. He is set to return on Tuesday.
• One of Wainwright's toughest outings came last Aug. 31 at Nationals Park, when he surrendered six runs on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.
• The Nationals entered Monday with 40.6 percent of their hits having gone for extra bases, the highest in the NL and second in baseball behind the Indians. Ian Desmond leads the way with 12 extra-base hits, including a double on Monday.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.