WASHINGTON -- The problem was with Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis' head.
Now, don't get ideas about Bettis' psyche. His career-high seven-walk performance in a loss Monday at Milwaukee wasn't "all in his head." Rather, it was due to head positioning. At any rate, Bettis' head was in the right place Sunday afternoon, when he threw seven effective innings with six strikeouts in a 5-3 victory over the Nationals.
"A lot of times, it's just one little thing," said Bettis, who last went seven innings on April 10. "Going from Milwaukee to here, the one thing I wanted to focus on was making sure my head was in the plate, and going from there."
In plain English, if Bettis could keep his head pushing toward the plate throughout his delivery, rather than leaning to the side, he could spot all his pitches. Bettis pitched off his usually solid fastball and slider, and he employed a curve that has increasingly become a part of his arsenal. And as Sunday's game progressed, his changeup was stellar.
"I have a lot of faith in Chad because of the way he works, the way he competes," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He put it all together today."
Bettis held the Nats to five hits, though two were inning-opening home runs; Trea Turner hit one in the first and Wilson Ramos did it in the fifth. They increased his homers-against total to 20, which is barely outside the 10 most in the National League. But Bettis realizes solo homers don't beat him, and he wins more often attacking hitters despite the risk.
Bettis also made pitches that mattered. His fastball induced a double-play grounder from speedy Ben Revere with two on to end the fifth.
"Our whole thought process right there was to give it a fastball," Bettis said. "We knew he could run well, but we have great infielders."
"He's got four or five pitches, and he does a good job at mixing it up," Turner said. And [catcher Tony] Wolters calls a good game as well, and they were on the same page. He kept us off balance, and it's tough when you've got to look for multiple pitches in the zone, not just around the plate."
Called up last May, Bettis finished the season as the Rockies' best pitcher and, according to staff and veteran players, emerged as a uniting force for a young staff. Bettis saw his improvement after the Milwaukee start as a product of united co-workers who examined Bettis' head positioning.
"As a group, we watch each other's bullpens, especially when someone doesn't look right," Bettis said. "You could go to another guy and say, 'What have you got for me? What did you see?' It's a tight-knit group and it needs to stay that way.
"There has been talk about it, collectively, and I picked people's brain, from [Jon] Gray to [Tyler] Chatwood to 'Andy' [Tyler Anderson], and now [Jeff] Hoffman is with us. Some of the stuff that they say clicks."