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Distractions off field, success on it

Apr 29, 2011, 4:08 AM EDT

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Ian Desmond is congratulated after homering in the fifth inning.

Ian Desmond and Livan Hernandez are, in many ways, polar opposites on the baseball diamond. Desmond is all energy, a second-year shortstop who acknowledges he’s likely to vacillate between highs and lows over the course of a season, or even a game. Hernandez is the laid-back veteran pitcher, never flustered by anything, a sage right-hander who simply tries to maintain a level of consistency every fifth day.

Each, though, knows who he is and doesn’t try to be somebody else. And when they stick to that philosophy and put it all together, as they did tonight during the Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Mets, they are invaluable to this ballclub.

In Desmond’s case, that meant returning from a two-day trip to Sarasota, Fla., to witness the birth of his first child and then homering and tripling to deep left-center. In Hernandez’s case, that meant shrugging off this week’s revelation that he’s been linked to a federal money laundering case and authoring a prototypical Livo gem on the mound.

Those two efforts, combined with a fantastic 3-2 slider from closer Drew Storen to ex-teammate Willie Harris with the game on the line in the ninth, helped the Nationals snap a three-game losing streak. And that helped both Desmond and Hernandez regain a sense of normalcy after an eventful few days.

“It was nice to be back,” Desmond said. “Watching the games the last couple days, it seemed like the team needed a little spark. I came in here today hoping to be able to do that. I did, and it felt really good.”
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  1. Nattydread - Apr 29, 2011 at 5:04 AM

    Loved Livan's Bunt & Shuffle

  2. Big Cat - Apr 29, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Good game Nats. G-G-Good game Riggs. Ugh…..it hurts my gut to say that

  3. masnstinks - Apr 29, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    Good,close game with lots of interesting plays.However — about Matt Stairs………

  4. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 29, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    I didn't re;aize Ian's family was staying in Sarasota. That is difficult I know. Lots of the players seem to do that keep their families in the area that was home before baseball, and that is not easy I am sure. I am glad my wife and kids could be with me where I worked.Good night for Ian and Livo.

  5. Feel Wood - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    From last night's post: "6:24 p.m. — Here's a rarity: They're going to play with a three-man umpiring crew tonight. Crew chief Tim McClelland has been scratched with what was announced as a "medical condition." I happened to see all four umps walk into the stadium about 45 minutes ago and noticed McClelland was limping somewhat. So they'll go without a second base ump tonight."Sitting up in the IF Gallery last night, we didn't notice they were going with only three umps til about the third inning. Then we recalled that they had not done the "Law and Order" umpire intro in the run-up to the game, either. So nice to know now what was up with that. But then later in the game they had a full four-man ump crew out there. Was McClelland finally able to come out, or did they somehow bring someone else in?

  6. Anonymous8 - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    It must have hurt Riggs to leave Stairs on deck in the 8th!Stairs is finally getting under some balls and the book on him is nothing inner half and pound him outside. Does Stairs have enough strength to take it opposite field and over the fence? Unless he can adjust, it just may keep getting uglier. In the past and even the beginning of the season, they pitched around him. Now they love seeing him come up to bat. Maybe this will be Stairs weekend to get a hit and help the team!On the Bernadina situation, I'm just not buying this story of needing him to play every day. Even when Riggleman was telling the story pre-game, he just didn't look comfortable talking about it and maybe because he is talking the company line and not telling the truth. Next year Bernadina will be out of options so you will find the real truth which is that he is a very capable bench role player, plain and simple.If you missed it, Debbi Taylor did a good interview with Willie Harris where he talked about his time here in DC and still would consider coming back if the opportunity was there.

  7. Harper_ROY_2012 - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I cannot compehend why you would keep Stairs and send Bernadina down, it makes no sense offensivley or defensively.Also, how long until HRod is the closer, my guess is around the All-Star break.

  8. natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Had I been there, I would have cheered Livo, too. The news was a blow, but we don't yet know all the facts or the outcome. As others have noted, the legal situation will play out in time. I also enjoyed the "Livo shuffle" (hey, maybe there's a song in that). Would have been fun to see him go back out in the 9th, but Storen preserved the win.Feel Wood, Bob stated at the start of the game that a replacement ump (can't recall his name) was en route and would enter the game late.

  9. Big Cat - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    HRod is a good arm to have out there. Don't look now, but Cole Kimball has not allowed a run in 8 games with 3 saves in AAA. Only 8 innings of course, but still. He is also 95mph with a nasty slider. Lets get him up here too and start shutting some people out. Hell, if the boys can't hit, we will just start blankin some people and putting curlies in the book

  10. Big Cat - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    ……regardless of Riggleman

  11. natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Oh, and congrats to "Big Daddy." Now, about those baby pics…

  12. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Lance Barrett, an International League ump, took over at third sometime in the sixth or seventh.

  13. Mark'd - Apr 29, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Werth and LaRoche are not coming through with runners on base with hits. The team could have run up the score and couldn't get the big hit.

  14. JD - Apr 29, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    That's very true Mark'd. Both players have had bad Aprils and should heat up with the weather. I saw some good swings from Michael Morse yesterday too; Desmond and Espinosa should also do better. On the other hand the starting pitching has been way better than anticipated; 24 games in we have yet to have a game where we needed to get a starter our in the 1st 5 innings; this minimizes the need to use the mediocre middle relievers. On in all I think; especially with Zim out for such a long time we are holding up reasonably well.

  15. JaneB - Apr 29, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    This is such a nice piece Mark. Not just because it's about a nice game where these guys played great…your writing, your insight. I hadn't realized Livo deliberately held up on that bunt. Makes me love him even more. Looking forward to seeing The Freak tonight, and sorry in advance that he will have another loss in his column.

  16. JaneB - Apr 29, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Just saw that post up and, to be VERY CLEAR, I'm not ACTUALLY sorry that Tim will post another loss this year. I am gleeful and determined. GO NATS!

  17. Mark'd - Apr 29, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Most impressive last night were Desi's 2 catches on steals with great tags. Getting Reyes out on that caught stealing from Pudge to Desi was a game changer!

  18. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Another heart pounder of a game. The Nats had Capuano in a few tough spots and let him off the hook. When Ankiel grounded out with bases loaded and 1 out and then got Werth out I was concerned as those 1 and 2 run leads looked suspect for another huge letdown.The Nats did have some luck. Jayson Werth hits a warning track fly that Beltran mis-played and Desmond legged a double into a triple when Willie Harris threw a weak relay down below Reyes knees. For a minute there I thought that was Nyjer in CF except the ball didn't bounce to Reyes. The aggressiveness on the bases paid off for the Nats all game. Livo worked his way out of trouble each inning with minimal damage and the defense backed him up. Ankiel made the catch of the night on that sinking line drive to CF and LaRoche is just money at 1st base. Morse didn't get any hits last night but each swing was short and right on the ball extending his arms. Capuano worked him outside and Morse went with the pitch. Last year Morse would try to pull those balls and although yesterday they were caught, they will soon fall for hits.Espinosa had some nice swings too. The last guy struggling is Adam LaRoche. He is dropping the bat head and his follow through looks uncomfortable. As much as I like his glove out there, he needs to start getting some hits or Riggleman has to move him back in the order. I think he needs some days off against Lefty pitchers for nothing more than to give him some rest.

  19. JD - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    Steve M. Move him back in the order and put which .220 hitter in his place?

  20. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    The Livo Shuffle was one of the better plays of the season so far. Now if only the music producer at the stadium had quickly picked Boz Scaggs' Ledo Shuffle for the between inning music after that could it had been any better.

  21. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    Mark Zuckerman, Maybe this was discussed somewhere and I missed it, what was Stan Kasten doing at the game last night?

  22. carolync - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Even the Mets fans in our section were laughing about Livan's bunt. You just knew his pitching would come through so we didn't get swept. The guy is amazing!I kept looking up at the scoreboard and being surprised we didn't have more runs as there seemed to be a lot of base runners. The top of the 9th shouldn't have been the nailbiter that it was. Werth and LaRoche each stranded 4 runners. Ugh! We need Zim!Great night for Desmond. Hope he keeps it up. He sure scared me with his slide into 3rd. Head first and way behind the bag. We don't need another injury.

  23. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    JD, no kidding, I put Zim in cleanup, Ramos in 5, LaRoche in 6, and Morse 7 and depending who is pitching LH or RH I have Ankiel and Desmond alternating between the 2nd and 8 hole. All that changes when Pudge plays.LaRoche is now 3 for 23 with Runners in Scoring Position which is .130 and all those hits are singles.

  24. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    Werth had a ground Rule double that knocked in a run, so his night was not all negative.

  25. PAY TO PLAY - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Manassas, if Werth was playing RF he easily catches that ball that ended up as a groundrule double. It is the other side of the ledger when you hit a double that is caught for a WebGem. Its like that bizarre double of LaRoche's on Wednesday night in LF that bounced off the Mets fielder. They all look like screaming liners in the scorebook.On his stats, it is great for Werth but if you are analyzing it Werth failed in 2 other critical spots with a popup and a strikeout.

  26. JaneB - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Pay to Play….AND…if you analyze it …Werth knocked in a run in a game we WON by one run. In my book, that's a good night. It just is.

  27. PAY TO PLAY - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    JaneB, you have lower expectations than I do is all I can say. Werth was 1 for 4 with a Strikeout and left 4 on base.If this was Pudge, I would be thrilled. With Werth, I have slightly higher expectations.Thrilled with the WIN

  28. Cwj - Apr 29, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Agree with JaneB.Also I'm not sure we should worry about Werth or LaRoche this early in the season. We know what they can (and most likely will) do.Still waiting to see HRod pitch. I'm guessing he wont make his Nats debut until a low-leverage situation comes up, just to see what he's got.Go Nats!

  29. FOTB - Apr 29, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    Ankiel, Worth, and LaRoche left a total of 11 men on base and had a total of 1 RBI last night. Can anyone really say that is a good night from the nos. 2, 3, and 4 hitters?

  30. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    FOTB, apparently Cwj and JaneB don't mind. The Nats had every opportunity to take control of the game and "put it away" early. If this was a loss, we would have been talking about the golden opportunities squandered.A win is a win but it didn't have to be a nailbiter is the point and to further that point Livan would have stayed in for a complete game if he had a 3 run lead.

  31. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    The Nats could go 162-0 and people would still complain. Amazing.

  32. Cwj - Apr 29, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Anon 12:44 – Yeah it's amazing isn't it? They won the game and they're talking about what if the Nats had lost.Who did what with RISP is a moot point because they WON.

  33. The Great Unwashed - Apr 29, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Yes, they WON last night. No complaints here. But the point about hitters 1-4 not producing is valid. Thank God the pitching's been pretty good overall or it would be like the beginning of the 2009 season all over again.

  34. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Here's one surprising stat on the Nats power numbers essentially without Zimmerman and no Dunn.The Nats HR differential was a -2 last year for the entire season and already this year is a +7 and that is while already facing St. Louis and Milwaukee who are top 5 in hitting HRs.I think the pitchers have really improved this year on staying away from the hitters power zones and the only starter who needs to work on the HR balls is Tom Gorzelanny.

  35. Cwj - Apr 29, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Steve M – Interesting stat. Pretty surprising actually.

  36. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    cwj, team ERA is 3.80 vs 3.93 league average. That is impressive too as we have all noticed the improved pitching and approach. Now if team defense and clutch hitting improves, this team can get back over .500

  37. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    carolync said…Great night for Desmond. Hope he keeps it up. He sure scared me with his slide into 3rd. Head first and way behind the bag. We don't need another injury. You are one of a few who feared Desmond getting injured. Most of the posters here want to vehemently rush him out of town. Don't you know he's the reason the Nationals have lost the games they have lost? It's all his fault…UNTERP

  38. JD - Apr 29, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    UNTERP, The fans are simply frustrated by the sheer volume of errors he makes and his lack of patience at the plate. From my perspective I would be tickled to be proven wrong about Desmond because he genuinely looks like a good guy who cares. Also, don't assume that he is out of his slump based on 1 good game; this I believe happened before this year. The key for me is consistent good at bats; deep counts, walks as well as solid error free defense over a long span of games. Again, I am rooting for Ian to succeed.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

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NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
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