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Posted at 11:34 AM ET, 07/18/2012

Injured Ian Desmond plays crucial role, didn’t need to swing

(Greg Fiume - GETTY IMAGES)
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson didn’t really want to use Ian Desmond the way he did in Tuesday’s wild 5-4 walkoff win. He sat his all-star shortstop because of a nagging oblique strain for the third straight game. But when Michael Morse smacked a single in the bottom of the ninth of a game in which the Nationals trailed, 3-2, Johnson inserted Desmond as a pinch runner.

Desmond’s pain mainly occurred when he swung, so running wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. He did fine there, taking third on a single by Adam LaRoche and scoring on a single by Danny Espinosa to tie the game.

Ian Desmond reacts after striking out against Marlins relief pitcher Steve Cishek on Saturday. (Alan Diaz - AP)
Then, Johnson realized that the Mets had a left-hander in the bullpen and didn’t want to waste a position player just to run or bring in a left-hander off the bench such as Rick Ankiel. Johnson asked Desmond if he could play shortstop and he responded that he would be okay. “I hope you don’t have to hit,” Johnson told Desmond.

Of course, it happened. After Jhonatan Solano singled and Bryce Harper plated him with a triple, reliever Tim Byrdak intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman and up came Desmond. Over the weekend, Desmond grimaced after he swung, and now he was being asked to swing. But Mets Manager Terry Collins called for another intentional walk, wanting his left-hander to face lefty LaRoche instead.

The Mets more than likely knew that Desmond was hurting most when he swung. But taking the risk of throwing to an injured Desmond was too much, and they preferred the other matchup.

“You just kind of do what you’re supposed to do and act like Desi is 100 percent, which you kind of have to,” Zimmerman said. “If you pitch to him there with the way he had been swinging the bat, even if he is only 75 percent or whatever he is, all he has to do is hit a flyball to the outfield.”

The Nationals eventually won, on a walk-off wild pitch, and Desmond didn’t need to swing in the game. Even though Johnson didn’t really want to use Desmond like he did, it worked out well.

“It couldn’t have been any better after just going on some medication to try and ease that pain in his side,” Johnson said.

Whether Desmond will play Wednesday is still uncertain. Johnson admitted it would be wishful thinking to think so.

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