(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

“That’s Ian Desmond,” Manager Davey Johnson said.

Desmond provided almost all of the Nationals’ offensive punch in their thrilling, 2-1, season-opening victory Thursday over the Cubs. He went 3 for 5 with the game-winning RBI single. Chad Tracy, whose two-out double sparked the game-winning, ninth-inning rally, had the only other hit for Washington. (The seven starting position players other than Desmond went 0 for 23 and left nine men on base.)

The Nationals do not expect Desmond to align his approach with a standard leadoff hitter’s, because they believe letting be his aggressive self will lead to more performances like Thursday’s. The Nationals need someone to spark their offense.

“I believe Ian Desmond is that guy,” Jayson Werth said. “That’s the type of player he is. He brings a lot to this club. With him leading off and swinging the bat the way he is, the way he runs the bases and just his overall attitude the game, he really sets the tone for the club. Today, he had a great game. We’re going to need him if we’re going to be a successful team.”

Thursday, Desmond made big plays at the best times. In the eighth, he rolled a one-out single through the right side, his second hit of the day. With Ryan Zimmerman at bat with two outs, Desmond then stole second off Geovany Soto and Kerry Wood. With him on second, Wood was motivated to walk Zimmerman. He never found the strike zone again, walking Adam LaRoche and Werth to force in the tying run.

In the ninth, Desmond came to the plate with go-ahead run on second base. He would smack Carlos Marmol’s 0-1 slider to right, giving him his third hit and the Nationals the win. Later, he said, “I was just trying to be aggressive.” Well, he always is.

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