» This Story:Read +| Comments

A Promising Development

Desmond Shines in Major League Debut as Nats Top Phils: Nationals 8, Phillies 7

Ian Desmond heads to second base with his first major league hit, a double. He also homered and had four RBI.
Ian Desmond heads to second base with his first major league hit, a double. He also homered and had four RBI. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
Buy Photo
Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 11, 2009

Nothing in baseball says "there is still hope" quite so loudly as the September debut of a fresh-faced kid with a future, the dirt of a couple dozen minor league fields still coating his glove, the spring still in his step despite the late date. Watch him strut around the clubhouse. Look at him zip around the diamond. Get about six more just like him, and maybe you've got something -- yes, even the Washington Nationals.

This Story

That was shortstop Ian Desmond on Thursday night, those fresh legs exploding through a hanging curve, then propelling him around the bases as if the ball that just left the park in the fifth inning was rattling around in the corner -- and still having enough left in reserve to push him up the dugout stairs for a curtain call a moment later. That was hope.

At a time on the calendar when the Nationals were craving one measly win, as well as any reminder that all the losses might one day be worth it, they got both. In his major league debut, Desmond doubled, homered and drove in four runs in the Nationals' harrowing 8-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies -- one that didn't enter the books until they survived a gruesome ninth inning in which the Phillies scored five times and put the go-ahead runs on base.

When veteran lefty Ron Villone coaxed a double-play grounder into an over-shifted infield from Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to stop the bleeding, it was Desmond who turned a nifty pivot at the second base bag, throwing out the lumbering Howard by a step.

"The ball was crystal clear. The lights -- everything was crystal clear," Desmond said after the game, traces of the traditional postgame shaving-cream pie still dangling like ivory earrings from his earlobes. "It felt great."

Desmond's fifth-inning homer, a three-run blast that ended the night of Phillies starter Joe Blanton, sailed all the way to the back row of the Red Porch in left-center. By the time it came down, Desmond was already nearing second base, finally easing off the accelerator when he realized it had left the yard -- or perhaps when it dawned on him that he looked like what he was: an overexcited rookie who had just struck his first big league homer.

After touching home plate, he nearly broke three arms -- those of the on-deck hitter and the two base runners who proceeded him home -- with emphatic high-fives. A standing ovation from the announced crowd of 18,706 grew in intensity as the Phillies made their pitching change, until Desmond, goaded by his teammates, bounded up the steps and waved.

"I'd never had anything like that happen before," Desmond said of the curtain call. "I didn't know if they were serious."

Even when Desmond was making outs, they were bombs to the warning track. Even when he was making an error, sailing a throw nearly into the first base stands, it spoke of the power in his arm. Even when he was getting thrown out at home plate -- as he did in the fourth, when he doubled for his first big league hit and RBI, then made an ill-advised dash home from second base on a sacrifice bunt -- it oozed energy and life.

One win, of course, was not enough to turn around the Nationals' awful fate, especially when it featured reliever Zack Segovia turning an 8-2 ninth-inning lead into an 8-6 lead by giving up a grand slam to Phillies pinch hitter Matt Stairs, who was 0 for his last 30 entering the at-bat. By holding on, though, the Nationals notched just their second win in their past 12 games and their third against the defending World Series champs in 15 tries this season.

"We certainly didn't want that kind of finish after we had had so many great at-bats to get the lead," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "But that's the Phillies. That's the lineup they have."

And similarly, one game, brilliant though it may have been, is not enough to add Desmond's name to the list of future cornerstones the Nationals have added to their collection over the past five sometimes brutal months -- a list that would appear to include center fielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, both currently injured. But unlike with most of the retreads and journeymen the Nationals have been parading through Washington this summer, there is at least that possibility.


CONTINUED     1        >


» This Story:Read +| Comments

More in the Nationals Section

Nationals Journal

Nationals Journal

Adam Kilgore keeps you up-to-date with every swing the Nationals make.

Stadium Guide

Stadium Guide

Take an interactive tour of the district's newest stadium, Nationals Park.

Baseball Insider

Baseball Insider

Dave Sheinin reports the latest MLB news and examines the game's nuances.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company