The grand stage of the playoffs has rattled Ian Desmond little. The shortstop has played like the Nationals best player against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. He has emerged in his breakout season as one of baseball’s best shortstops and players, and now a national audience can see it.
Desmond has played stellar defense in the field. While many around him have struggled at the plate Cardinals pitching, other than Ryan Zimmerman, Desmond continued his hot-hitting groove. With a 3 for 4 performance at the plate on Wednesday, he is 7 for 12 (.583) in the series, all singles save for one double. No player on either team has as many hits.
“I’m just trying to go up there and let the game happen,” Desmond said. “I’m not putting to much pressure on myself. Just kind of sticking with what I’ve been doing all game long.”
Before the game, Desmond enjoyed one of his most lasting memories. He caught the ceremonial first pitch thrown by Frank Robinson, a former Nationals manager and Hall of Famer. Robinson was the manager when Desmond was first called up to major league camp in 2005. Desmond has long considered him an important figure in his career, changing his jersey number to 20 this season in his honor.
“It was great,” Desmond said. “We got to talk a little bit beforehand and to be able to see him and to hear the ovation that he got was pretty special. Something that I’ll remember for a long time.”
Desmond crouched behind home plate to catch Robinson, who fired a slow strike over the plate from in front of the mound. “I asked him if he was going to throw it from the mound or he was going come up a little closer, he said, ‘Just stay down the middle,'” Desmond said.