On the second pitch of his leadoff at-bat against Phillies starter Roy Halladay, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond laced a 93-mile per hour fastball into the right field corner for a double.
Eight innings later, facing reliever Antonio Bastardo with his team down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Desmond fell behind 1-2 in the count. Boisterous Phillies fans were on their feet watching for one final strike to end the game. But Desmond connected on a low, inside slider from Bastardo and drove it just over the left field fence for a home run to tie a game the Nationals won an inning later.
These were Desmond’s two hits on Sunday, finishing 2-for-5, and were prime examples of his potential. It was an aggressive but carefully selected approach that free-swinging Desmond has been working with Manager Davey Johnson to hone.
“I talked with him one-on-one the last couple days, trying to clear his mind a little bit and he tries to do so much,” Johnson said. “Just trying to simplify it with him. He’s a very aggressive player and sometimes he’s just overly aggressive. You don’t want to take away from that but you want to be a little patiently aggressive. He’ll chase ball out of the strike zone and try to make something happen. And that’s what usually young guys do.”
Much like he was overly aggressive in the field last season, his first full one in the major leagues, and made 34 errors, Desmond has calmed down. Now, Johnson hopes, his shortstop will do the same when he bats.
“I think [Johnson] was trying to figure out where my head was at in my at-bats,” said Desmond of their recent conversations. “I just let him know I’m focused and ready to go. I appreciate him putting me out there every day and sticking with me.”
After hitting .269/.308/.392 last season, Desmond has struggled at the plate this season (.230/.277/.330). In August, however, he is already 17-for-70 with two home runs, the most he has hit in a month since April. And in two of the past three games, Desmond has notched two-hit performances, while batting leadoff.
“I see signs of him coming out of that little funk he was in,” Johnson said.
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 7, Pawtucket 4: Left-fielder Jeff Frazier goes 3-for-4 and drives in three runs.
Winston-Salem 15, Potomac 3: The Bash notch 23 hits off the Nationals. Potomac’s Francisco Soriano, Jose Lozado and Destin Hood collect two hits each.
Erie 5, Harrisburg 1: The Senators commit three errors and Archie Gilbert finishes 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Kannapolis 2, Hagerstown 1: Starter Robbie Ray (2.09 ERA) allows only one hit and strikes out seven in four innings.
Auburn 5, State College 0: Four Doubleday pitchers combine for the shutout, led by five innings of four-hit ball from starter Brian Dupra.