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Young Mr. Clutch delivers for crowd

Jun 5, 2010, 4:18 AM EDT


Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
A big crowd was treated to a big win from the home team.

For a team that has struggled to come through with clutch hits most of this season, the sight of a rookie at the plate in a key, seventh-inning spot tonight shouldn't have been comforting.

The Nationals, though, have every reason to feel comfortable with Ian Desmond in that situation right now. Forget that he's a rookie. Forget that he's had his ups and downs throughout the season's first two months. Right now, there's no one the club would rather have at the plate in key spots than the 24-year-old.

Even when he nearly botches his opportunity.

When Desmond stood outside the batter's box in the bottom of the seventh tonight — runners on first and second, no one out in a tie game — he wasn't surprised to see Pat Listach give him the bunt sign. Even though he really wanted to swing away.

"In a competitive way, yeah," he said. "When I go up to the plate, I want to drive in every run I can. But when the bunt sign comes on, I'm gonna bunt. I'm not mad they gave me the bunt sign. I think I'm a good bunter, and I think it's an asset I have that can help the team."

Desmond, of course, failed to get the bunt down. He fell behind in the count, and suddenly he was free to swing away.

"I hate to say that I give more focus to those at-bats," he said. "But after I missed the bunt, I kind of told myself, 'Hey, we've got to really do something here. Let's go. Let's put something hard in play up theRead more »

  1. Cwj - Jun 5, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    Fantastic Mark. Go Nats! Can any of you believe the amount of close games this season??? It seems that nearly every game is decided by a coin flip, so to speak.

  2. Positively Half St. - Jun 5, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Capps pitched like he did in the past losses, but was spared a botched call by the umps or a ridiculous error. He should have 20 saves now.

  3. Doc - Jun 5, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    Nice article Mark! The interviews gave us some good insight into the players' motivations. Now if we can just figure out why AD has gone 0 for 22 in Desmond-like situations???

  4. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Changing subjects a bit but … I suppose umpire schedules are fixed several weeks ahead. What crew will have the Strasburg game and who will probably be the home plate umpire that day. If we do know the crew, can you elaborate on the home plate umpire?

  5. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    Mark, an unrelated question, about Strasburg’s second home start:Adam Kilgore reported a a few days ago that the Nats’ tentative plan was for Strasburg to pitch every five days (rather every five starts), which would have him pitching Friday, the 18 rather than Sat the 19th.But I now see that the Sat game has been moved to 4:10 (from 7:05) and will be televised by Fox. So am I right to think that’s now projected as Strasburg’s 2d home start after all?

  6. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Nice to see so many folks at the Park last night BECAUSE everyone wanted to see SS and could not resell tickets once his start date was moved to June 8th!How many people will be there tonight to see the PHENOM who skipped the minors entirely and is 4-0…MIKE LEAKE???I believe the Nats moved SS back to the Pirates series because they were afraid of A) a Leake-SS matchup, B) educated fans being able to compare the two pitchers even if they did not start the same day, and C) the Pirates don't have any good pitchers to compare SS to.I would expect to see the typical Nats crowd at the Park tonight…paid attendance 25K, actual attendance 5K

  7. A DC Wonk - Jun 5, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    No, really? Guz has two more 2-out-RISD hits in the last two days than Adam Dunn has had all season? . . . . ;-)

  8. A DC Wonk - Jun 5, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Re: Strasburg . . . I'd guess that Kilgore was simply not being precise — that Strasburg is pitching every five games, not days. To pitch every five days would require bumping pitchers all over the place, and makes no sense, imho.

  9. natsfan1a - Jun 5, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Kid carried off the Silver Fox wig nicely as well. Atta boy. :-)

  10. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    Re: Strasburg . . . I'd guess that Kilgore was simply not being precise — that Strasburg is pitching every five games, not days. To pitch every five days would require bumping pitchers all over the place, and makes no sense, imho.May not make any sense, but that's exactly what Kilgore said they were planning to do. Perhaps the intervention of Fox caused them to change that plan. I for one would be happy about that, cuz I have tix for the 19th.

  11. Andrew - Jun 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Time to buy tickets for the 19th!

  12. Arlington Big Fish - Jun 5, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    Was at last night's game, & sort of kept track on the scoreboard of the various players' OPS — & had a revelation about why the Nats' offense has been so anemic lately: Absence of Pudge.Wil Nieves' OPS is .510 — only 20 points better than Harang, the Reds' starting pitcher. So when Nieves is in the lineup, we've got 2 pitchers batting. While Pudge has been away, Nieves has cemented his role as a back-up catcher — if that. Where is Flores?

  13. Mark Zuckerman - Jun 5, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    Regarding Strasburg's third overall start (second home start) … I wouldn't go and buy tickets for June 19 just yet. I have heard rumblings myself about Fox picking up that game, but that doesn't mean Strasburg is pitching that day. I have every reason to believe the reports of him pitching every fifth day (not every fifth game) are true, which means he'd go on Friday night the 18th. Either way, based on how this whole debut speculation went, I wouldn't advise buying tickets well in advance to any game just because you think Strasburg will be starting. I'd wait for the team to make it official.

  14. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    Nice article on Desmond, Mark, but at the game last night we wondered why he was bunting with Wil Nieves on deck. It just didn't make sense to give up an out at that time. By the way, I hope Nyger Morgan was taking notes when Harang laid down a nice bunt in the second.

  15. Doc - Jun 5, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Speaking of Pudge and Nieves, and Arlington Big Fish's analysis, what's the update on Flores Mark?

  16. Grant - Jun 5, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Great article, Mark, and I love seeing Desmond mature and come through in big spots. But for my money, when we need a clutch hit, the man I want to see in the batter's box is Josh Willingham. He's been the clutchest of clutch for us this season.

  17. Joe Seamhead - Jun 5, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    The play when Desmond got tossed was bogus, whether he momentarily slipped off the bag, or not. The 3rd base ump was right on top of it. Crew chief and 1st base ump Joe West overturned the called play, and he was over at 1st base. What's with that? And then he tossed Ian immediately. Joe West in an embarrassment to the integrity of baseball, and as such, should be fired!I was at the game last night and it was great to see the crowd really get into it. I still feel like Natstown needs to develop, but both pride, and personality, showed signs of life last night.

  18. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    Fire Joe West:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=130612593620150

  19. Joe - Jun 5, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    Every fifth day vs. every fifth game…Here's what I don't understand – if SS is on an inning-limit for the season, why would you put him on a five-day, as opposed to a five-game, rotation? Won't a five-day rotation get him to his innings-limit even sooner? Aren't they going to have a hard enough time shutting SS down for the season when he reaches his season inning limit (esp. if they are in a pennant race)? Or is the plan for Zimmermann/Wang to take over for SS when he reaches his inning cap for the season?

  20. Sec$39.99 - Jun 5, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    I can imagine a good crowd tonight (and it will be a good crowd) chanting "FINE JOE WEST"–and then I flash back on the fan who got Joe Girardi fired.

  21. Anonymous - Jun 5, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    I have heard rumblings myself about Fox picking up that game, but that doesn't mean Strasburg is pitching that day.While it hasn't AFAIK been announced that Fox is picking up the 6/19 game, the time has apparently been changed to 4:10 pm, which puts it into Fox's exclusivity window. (While there hasn't AFAIK been any official announcement of the 4:10 time, last night on the big screen a Ryan Zimmerman Bobblehead Night ad was shown that had the game time listed as 4:10.) I would imagine that Fox gets the right to change the time of a game if they want to broadcast it, but they can't make it on condition that a particular pitcher starts the game. So they are probably gambling on a Strasburg start as much as anyone else is. But of course the Nats may well decide that their best course would be to put their best foot forward on a national broadcast and go ahead and start Strasburg that day. Or maybe not.

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