Ian Desmond left his imprint all over Thursday’s night victory, in ways so varied you wondered if he would rake the infield or sing God Bless America. In one night, he showed everything about the player he has become when he is at his best: an electric shortstop, a clutch hitter, a heads-up base runner, a caring teammate and, in Gio Gonzalez’s words, “a leader.”
This is the kind of player Desmond is: In the fifth inning, Desmond Jennings smacked a groundball over the pitcher’s mound. Desmond ranged way to his left, scooped the ball on a tricky hop, did a 360-degree spin behind second base and made a whirling, strong throw to first to nail Jennings.
This is the kind of player Desmond is: When asked about where the play fit among his best, he said, “I don’t know. I don’t rank them. I know Desmond Jennings robbed me of a double in Triple A one time. So I paid him back.”
This is the kind of player Desmond is: Gonzalez needed 50 pitches to finish the first two innings, and frustration built at his lack of command, the heat and the umpiring. Gonzalez did what he has come to always do: he turned around and looked at Desmond.
“He was taking some deep breaths for me,” Gonzalez said. “When you’ve got, in my opinion, a leader like that to go out there and slow your game down for you, it helps out a lot.”
“It’s something we’ve been having all year long,” Desmond said. “I just keep him in check. I’m not helping him with his pitches, by any means. I’m just giving him a little confidence and keeping him going.”
This is the kind of player Desmond is: In the third inning, he came to bat with two outs and a runner in scoring position. He ripped a single up the middle — he’s hitting .284 with runners in scoring position. As he watched Bryce Harper round third and score, first base coach Trent Jewett yelled to him, “Nobody’s here! Nobody’s here!”
Carlos Peña had gone to cut off the ball. The throw went over his head, to catcher Jose Lobaton. “I had the freedom to get off as far as I wanted,” Desmond said. “I saw that Lobaton caught the ball. He flipped it to Peña. Peña turned his back to me. I figured I could go.”
Desmond bolted to second and slid in headfirst, safe, without a throw.
This is the kind of player Desmond is: He knew the woman running the mid-inning “Steal Second Base” contest needed his help. He ran to shallow center to hand her the base. When she broke the tape with four seconds to spare, Desmond raised his fist.
“She had no chance otherwise,” Desmond said. “I didn’t want to see her use all that energy and not win.”