WASHINGTON -- Growing up in Wentzville, Mo., a few dozen miles northwest of St. Louis, Ross Detwiler was always a Cardinals fan. Those allegiances evaporate at the dawn of a Major League career, of course, but perhaps Detwiler did not truly grow wary of the Cards until just last week.

Wild Card vs. Nationals

In his first big league appearance against his old favorites, Detwiler served up seven runs over 2 1/3 innings, walking five batters and delaying Washington's quest to clinch the league's best record. Though four of those runs were unearned, Detwiler left Busch Stadium with a sour taste in his mouth.

"I try not to remember that one," Detwiler said. "My last couple starts are [examples of] what not to do."

It is a troubling trend, considering the circumstances. Following a 12-day layoff after that start, Detwiler will start Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Thursday against the Cardinals (4 p.m. ET on TBS), looking to correct what went wrong for him early last week, but more importantly, looking to keep the Nats' season alive.

"Det's capable of pitching a good game tomorrow," said manager Davey Johnson after Game 3. "That's been our strength all year. These young guys have pitched great all year. We need a couple more good pitched games this series."

Tale of the Tape: Game 4
Kyle Lohse
Cardinals
Ross Detwiler
Nationals
2012 regular season
Overall: 33 GS, 16-3, 2.86 ERA, 38 BB, 143 K's Overall: 33 G, 27 GS, 10-8, 3.40 ERA, 52 BB, 105 K's
Key stat: Lohse's .842 winning percentage led the Major Leagues this year Key stat: Detwiler was one of five Washington starters with at least 10 wins this year
At Nationals Park
2012: 1 GS, 0-0, 7.94 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 1-1, 7.48 ERA
2012: 17 G, 14 GS, 8-2, 2.59 ERA
Career: 37 G, 30 GS, 13-7, 3.25 ERA
Against this opponent
2012: 2 GS, 0-0, 6.94 ERA
Career: 14 G, 12 GS, 4-2, 5.23 ERA
2012: 1 GS, 0-1, 11.57 ERA
Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 11.57 ERA
Loves to face: Ian Desmond: 4-for-17
Hates to face: Jayson Werth: 8-for-21, 3 HRs, 3 2Bs, 6 RBIs
Loves to face: Allen Craig: 0-for-2
Hates to face: Carlos Beltran: 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Lohse's ERA ranked fifth in the NL this season Why he'll win: Detwiler pitches much better at Nationals Park than on the road
Pitcher beware: Lohse is 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA in his postseason career Pitcher beware: Detwiler is pitching after a 12-day layoff
Bottom line: Lohse had a great 2012 and has experience on the big stage Bottom line: Detwiler needs to bounce back after two rough outings to close the regular season

Detwiler believes he'll be ready.

"Watching all the games on TV and even watching our games, I'm seeing you get hurt when the ball gets up in the zone," Detwiler said. "You try to stay out of that as much as you can."

If he can simply rediscover his midseason form, that much should not be an issue. After bouncing between the rotation and bullpen over the first three months of the season, Detwiler joined the starting five for good in late June and went 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA the rest of the way. He was particularly solid from the All-Star break through mid-September, going 6-3 with a 2.76 ERA over that stretch.

"He has really come a long way," Johnson said. "Sometimes the problem that comes with good, young arms is you rely too much on your fastball. But I've seen him pitch some great ballgames. He's got outstanding stuff, and he's got good poise. I have never seen him get really rattled by the situation."

But Detwiler's last two starts have given the Nationals cause for concern, especially when grouped with Stephen Strasburg's shutdown, Jordan Zimmermann's second-half slide and Gio Gonzalez's inefficient NLDS debut. Personally backing into the playoffs, Detwiler gave up eight earned runs and 12 total runs over his final two outings, walking eight batters over 7 1/3 innings.

If the left-hander's struggles continue into his postseason debut, it could make for a troubling trend for Washington, after Gonzalez and Zimmermann mustered a combined eight innings in Games 1 and 2. But the Nats arrived here in October on the strength of their rotation, and they intend to stick around for that same reason.

"I view their staff as one of the best in the league," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "We have seen these guys firsthand, we came in here late in the season and they were very impressive. So our guys understand that. We give them a lot of credit, same old story. We also don't go too far from the fact that we have a lot of faith in ourselves and believe we have a good offense that can handle it."

They handled Detwiler, to be certain. Now it's time for Detwiler to try to handle them at Nationals Park, where he has seen most of his success this season. In 17 outings in the District, Detwiler is 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA, compared to 2-6 with a 4.38 mark elsewhere.

Of course, has never faced the Cardinals at home.

"The scouting report is still fresh in my mind," Detwiler said. "It's my [most recent] start and the last hitters I saw. I'll know how to attack them and how I want to do it."