(Alex Brandon/AP)

Desmond has been battling the injury to his side since at least June and didn’t start in five games in the past week because of it. Yet, he had reached a point in which he felt well enough to play with the injury. But in Saturday’s second game, the oblique strain flared up again. Manager Davey Johnson said Desmond told a trainer it felt like he had taken a bat to his side.

“Obviously, it’s barking,” Johnson said.

The injury continues to be a concern for the Nationals, who contend that Desmond will play through it this season because he won’t get to rest it completely until the offseason. But if it worsens, a stint on the disabled list may be unavoidable. Johnson said he doesn’t want to put Desmond on the disabled list..

He said Desmond would continue to receive treatment and the Nationals medical staff hopes to keep the injury under control. The idea of shutting Desmond down for an extended amount of time by placing him on the disabled list is a difficult thought for the Nationals to stomach. He has been perhaps their most valuable position player this season.

“I don’t really want to go there,” Johnson said. “That may be something but I think that Desi’s come to the conclusion it’s going to be nagging him all year long.”

Desmond asked Johnson to consider double switching him out of Saturday night’s game. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, Johnson was ready to send in Bryce Harper to pinch hit for Desmond. But the shortstop refused, asking to stay in for the at-bat. He then drove in the game-tying run with a groundout.

Johnson blamed himself for playing Desmond in both games on Saturday after playing him in Friday night’s 11-inning marathon.

“It was probably my fault for even playing him in the second game and then giving him off,” Johnson said. “But I like seeing him out there. So I didn’t even ask him, ‘How you’re feeling?’”

It seems likely that Desmond will again take a few games off to rest his injury. He played only four innings of the three-game series against the New York Mets. Danny Espinosa will play shortstop on Sunday and Steve Lombardozzi moves in from the outfield to second base, another sign of more than one day off.

In the past week’s eight games, Desmond didn’t start in five of them and was held out of three entirely. He missed the all-star game, opting to rest his injury, but the inactivity may have allowed the muscles to tighten and hurt more.