After early miscues, Ian Desmond steadies his defense

Early this season, one of the Nationals’ most glaring weakness was their defense. One part of the Nationals’ shakiness was the major league worst seven errors committed by shortstop Ian Desmond within the 18 games of the season. At the time, Desmond and Manager Davey Johnson expressed confidence that mistakes would calm down.

“He may go 60 games without making an error,” Johnson said then.

Well, it has been 32 games so far. Desmond hasn’t committed an error since he made his seventh on April 21. He has played steady and even flashy defense, including at least two plays on Sunday against the Phillies in which he displayed his strong arm and wide fielding range. He has looked like he did in his breakout 2012 season, when he played tremendous defense, committed only 15 errors all season and was a finalist for the Gold Glove award.

As a whole, the Nationals defense seems to be slowly steadying. For much of the season, the Nationals led the majors in errors by a noticeable margin. They still do with 39 errors — but other teams are catching up as the Nationals slow down. They’re tied with the Chicago Cubs with 39 errors.

After making six errors in a four-game series against the San Diego Padres, the Nationals have made only two in the six games since. Adam LaRoche has played his normally steady defense at first. Ryan Zimmerman has looked better over the past week with his throws across the diamond. Danny Espinosa has been strong and Steve Lombardozzi has filled in fine. But Desmond, the leader of the left side of the infield, has been the stable and brilliant fielder he was expected to be.

FROM THE POST

Stephen Strasburg dominates and Washington rallies in seventh for win, writes Adam Kilgore.

Protecting Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper is a tough balance for the Nationals, writes Thomas Boswell.

Orioles’ Manny Machado quietly enters debate over MLB’s best young player, writes Dave Sheinin.

Bryce Harper aggravated his left knee injury and could miss a few games and deal with the injury all season.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Nationals place Ross Detwiler on the disabled list, call up Xavier Cedeno

Phillies at Nationals discussion thread: Game 50

Davey Johnson still sorting through bullpen, and how Fernando Abad could help

Danny Espinosa hopeful he can return this week

Today’s Nationals-Phillies lineups

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 8, Columbus 5: Chris Young started and left the game after one inning, three hits, three runs and two walks. Jeff Mandel tossed four innings of relief for the win and Tanner Roark pitched the final four innings and notched the save. Chris Marrero hit his 10th home run and is hitting .302 on the season. Corey Brown hit his fifth home run and finished 3 for 5. Carlos Rivero hit his first homer.

Harrisburg 8, Reading 2: Paul Demny started and allowed two runs, one earned, over seven innings, striking out nine and walking only one. Matt Swynenberg and Ian Krol combined to allow one hit over the final two innings. Krol, a lefty acquired in the Michael Morse trade, has a 0.74 ERA. Rick Hague went 1 for 4 with a three-run home run. Destin Hood finished 2 for 4 with two RBI.

Potomac 4, Lynchburg 2: Robbie Ray started and allowed two runs on five hits over four innings. Colin Bates pitched three innings of relief, Derek Self notched a hold and Richie Mirowski earned his fourth save. Leadoff hitter and second baseman Francisco Soriano went 2 for 5 with a double and triple. Kevin Keyes went 2 for 4 with two RBI.

Hagerstown 16, Lexington 9: Ronald Pena started and lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits. Travis Henke allowed only one run over the next 3 2/3 innings. Bryan Harper allowed two runs and walked four in two innings. Will Hudgins pitched a scoreless inning. Estarlin Martinez went 3 for 4 with two doubles, five RBI and two walks. Wil Piwnica-Worms went 2 for 4 with two doubles and four RBI. Wilmer Difo hit a three-run home run.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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James Wagner · May 26, 2013