One of the most pleasant – and, given the way the season began, surprising – developments for the Nationals this season has been Ian Desmond’s defense at shortstop. Desmond made eight errors by May 4, a pace even worse than last season, when he lapped the field and led the majors with 34 errors.
Desmond has not made an error since, a span during which Desmond has started 28 games and appeared in 29. That’s double the longest stretch of his professional career, majors or minors, without an error.
As if changed by the flip of a switch, Desmond has made spectacular and routine plays, playing himself into easy hops and making controlled, calm throws to first. If he remains on his current pace of eight errors in 61 games, he’ll make 21 on the season – 13 less than his rookie season.
Desmond is hitting .229/.269/.344 this season, which is obviously disappointing – his 70 OPS + ranked 73rd of 78 qualifying National League players entering Tuesday. But his defense has still added value.
“It definitely feels good to be out there and contributing,” Desmond said. “That’s been my goal this year, to play better defense.”
While Desmond’s defense turned around the time of the birth of his child in May, the real reason for his turnaround is simple than that. Simply, he worked really, really hard.
“I can’t tell you how many days Desmond was on the backfield and no one saw him,” Nationals bench coach McLaren said. “This guy just worked hard at his game. I got to hand it to him.”
Desmond’s improvement has coincided with the Nationals’ team reversal on defense. Since April 29, the Nationals have made 11 errors in 37 games, second in the majors over that span. Overall, they’ve made 33, tied for ninth in the majors. Errors are not the be-all, end-all for evaluating a team’s defense, but that’s an extreme improvement for a team that led the league in errors two years running.
“We’re playing as good as defensively as you can play,” McLaren said. “Jim [Riggleman] stressed it spring training. Our defense is there every night.”
FROM THE POST
Behind an ace-like performance from Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals won 2-1 to rebound from a tough loss.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Lousiville 9, Syracuse 2: Matt Antonelli went 2 for 3 with a triple and a walk. Chris Marrero went 1 for 4 with a double.
Harrisburg 6, Binghampton 5: Derek Norris went 1 for 2 with two walks. Stephen King went 1 for 2 with a home run and two walks. Brad Peacock allowed three runs in five innings on five hits and two walks, striking out nine.
Harrisburg 7, Binghampton 6: Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 3. Norris pinch-hit and hit a two-run homer in his only at-bat. Garrett Mock allowed four earned runs in four innings on three home runs.
Frederick 7, Potomac 2: Destin Hood went 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Rafael Marint struck out the only batter he faced.
Greensboro 13, Hagerstown 5: Bryce Harper went 1 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a strikeout. Jason Martinson wetn 2 for 4 with a double. Adrian Sanchez went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a walk. Chris Manno allowed two runs, none earned, in one relief inning. He has a 0.32 ERA in 28 innings, with 46 strikeouts and 10 walks.