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A 3-run blast with emphasis

May 31, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT

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As Ian Desmond crossed the plate on the heels of the first 3-run homer struck by a Nationals batter in eons, anybody who stood within shouting distance of the fired-up shortstop had to brace himself for what was about to be unleashed.

Desmond got Jayson Werth first with an emphatic high-five. Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth were next. Then came every soul inside the dugout, each high-five delivered with as much force as the previous.

“I think he got Rochie first, so I kind of gave a little bit,” McLouth said. “I saw it coming, so I was able to put a little cushion in my shoulder there.”

Desmond let out some emotion there, and why not? His fourth-inning blast off Colby Lewis was the Nationals’ first 3-run homer since April 16, a span of 38 games. That it also happened to give the Nats the lead and send them on their way to a 9-2 drubbing of the Rangers only added to the celebratory mood.

“Party,” Desmond said afterward. “We’re not having enough fun. People have been making that known to us. So, every time we hit one now, it’s a party in here.”

Wait, who said you weren’t having enough fun?

“Everybody,” Desmond replied. “Friends. Family. Teammates. Everyone sees it. When you’re going through tough times, this is our job. People have to put that into perspective sometimes, too. This is how we provide for our families. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact this is a game, but at the same time, it’s tough also.”

The Nationals admittedly were a downtrodden team earlier this week after losing six of seven, falling two games below the .500 mark and having to deal with a never-ending stream of questions about their inability to deliver big hits at key moments. So they took Thursday off to hit the refresh button, then showed up Friday with renewed energy.

They hit a brief bump in the road in the top of the second when in the span of two minutes, Stephen Strasburg bobbled an easy comebacker for an error, gave up an RBI single, was visited by the head trainer, his manager and pitching coach after they saw him “doing some funny things out there” and gave up another RBI single to the opposing pitcher.

Down 2-0, Strasburg appeared on the verge of a self-inflicted meltdown. But then the right-hander composed himself and proceeded to toss four more scoreless innings to complete his night and impress those around him.

“It’s a trait that all pitchers need to have,” manager Matt Williams said. “It’s never absolutely clean all the time. He was a little animated and upset when he came back to the dugout, but that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for him to be not pleased with not catching a ball and giving up a couple runs. It’s OK. That’s just competing.”

“I think he’s coming into his own,” Desmond said. “He’s starting to show a little bulldogness out there. I don’t know if that’s a word, but that’s what I see.”

In shutting down the opposition after that second-inning hiccup, Strasburg gave his teammates a chance to rally. Which they did, starting with Desmond’s big blast.

The 3-run homer just to the right of center field was a rare sight in these parts. Of the Nationals’ last 36 homers, 27 have been solo shots. And this one appeared to ignite the entire lineup.

“It was awesome,” said Tyler Moore, whose pinch-hit, 2-run double in the sixth gave the Nats some much-needed insurance. “Huge homer by Desi. That’s what you expect from a guy like that. He’s one of the leaders of the team. He came through for us tonight, and it was awesome. It got us going. It just kind of catapulted us on for the next inning and hopefully for the rest of the series.”

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    Desi the catalyst. There were actually several well stroked balls that were right at fielders, the Nats seemed relaxed after the HR.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    “veejh – May 30, 2014 at 8:47 PM
    Span was stealing, dont remember if Harper was.”

    I rewatched the play and you are correct that Span was going. His jump wasn’t great so I’m wondering if that was a hit & run or steal. Either way, good observation by you as Span had taken off before the swing.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    Plenty of discussion of Espi working towards a new stance at the plate. A little further off the plate and a little more open. To me though, any time he goes back to that long swing he needs to be benched. The only time I think the swing can be long is in the situation like 2 outs in a walkoff situation where you swing for the fences.

    http://therocket.mlblogs.com/2014/05/31/williams-impressed-with-espinosa/

    “In the third inning, Espinosa hit the ball hard, but grounded out to second base. After he was walked intentionally an inning later, Espinosa flied out to center field in the sixth before grounding out to third baseman Adrian Beltre in the eighth.”

    The grounders that are hit hard will eventually find holes. There were no K’s so that was progress. The flyout in the 6th is vintage Espinosa though. Men on 2nd and 1st and the 3rd baseman is back. Why not bunt for a hit? He had the perfect pitch to do it with a fastball outside. Instead Espi goes 1st ball swinging and serves a lazy flyball can of corn to center on a borderline strike to the outside edge.

    With RISP, Espi falls to .071/.216/.071/.287

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Another compliment for Desi is that even when he was struggling he was nails when he had RISP. He’s maintained the entire season a better statline with RISP than with bases empty. Some call that clutch.

    RISP statline: .291/.385/.455/.839

  5. Candide - May 31, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    “Party,” Desmond said afterward. “We’re not having enough fun…

    You’re not having enough fun? How do you think the rest of us who paid to get into the ball park and watch you not have fun feel? Think we’re having a great time up here watching you guys make pitchers with double-digit ERAs look like Walter Johnson Koufax Spahn?

    Ghost – good catch on that RISP stat – I wasn’t aware of it (“and a lot of other things,too” – from the NI sidelines).

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Candide, just here to give perspective. Desi caught his share of grief and even when he was struggling he was still hitting with RISP and taking some hard-fought walks.

      In a game of failures a .291 BA with RISP just never seems good enough as you are failing about 7 out of 10 times but with Desi’s plate appearances that .385 OBP is getting phat.

  6. Candide - May 31, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    BTW, Cunegonde and I had fun at the park last night. I’m not a complete grump.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 9:08 AM

      The game got a lot more fun after Desi’s 3 run HR. It was as if every Nats player exhaled and relaxed.

  7. Joe Seamhead - May 31, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Steve, I was at the game, but from my seat there was no doubt that Span went with the pitch, but I thought that it was a h&r. Regardless, it was an exciting play. He was pretty much at 2nd when the throw was made to first, and he figured correctly that he could get to third quicker than they could make a throw to first, and back to third. A classic case of “speed kills ‘em twice”, and I sure would like to see Span use his more productively, and more often.

    Desmond’s homer was a no-doubter right off of the bat. Great shot, and a even better it was the shot that served to get this team excited. Then when Denard goes and scored from 1st on a ground out, it was an exclamation point (!) made to keep it going. Sometimes I get the feeling that this Nats team is just a little too nice. Sure would like to think that a bit of a killer instinct got awakened last night.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      Joe, just watched the play again, 3-1 pitch and I think that could have been MW’s 1st H&R. Just wasn’t a large lead or a good jump so I’m leaning towards H&R.

      I wonder if anyone in the Press asked what that was. Personally I missed it the first time and H/T to Veejh for catching that Span was running.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 31, 2014 at 9:11 AM

        “I was stealing on the pitch. Rendon hit it and Beltre went to first base,” Span said. “My instincts just took over and [I] just tried to get to third. I knew it was going to be pretty tough for Moreland to catch the ball and throw me out at third. It’s just me being aggressive.”

        Looks like we’re still waiting for a true hit and run.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 9:14 AM

        That is great stuff. Straight steal and stole a run in the process!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 9:46 AM

        Yep, steal. Thanks NL

      • Joe Seamhead - May 31, 2014 at 9:34 AM

        Thanks, NL, that was the first time I got to see a replay. He was definitely on a mission!

      • Candide - May 31, 2014 at 9:50 AM

        (Replying to NL’s link post.)

        You can see Span is watching Beltre as he rounds second; he’s already past second when Beltre makes his throw, so he knows it’s going to take a good throw to first and another good one back to third to catch him. Good heads-up by Denard.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 31, 2014 at 9:52 AM

        That’s one of those plays that the stats sheet doesn’t tell the whole story.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Good point Joe.

      • Candide - May 31, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        Watching that replay again – Denard would have been safe at third even on a good throw.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        Yes, he would’ve beat a good throw.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - May 31, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Lobaton starting so my rant about Ramos getting an early night was moot.

  9. NatsLady - May 31, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Well, let’s win today, boys, because tomorrow it’s hangovers and Yu.

    • TimDz - May 31, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      I’m more concerned about being able to hit off of today’s unknown Cy Young Dujour….these are the pitchers that the Nats Bats have had trouble figuring out. Having Fister on the mound helps…

      Darvish. may be a bit tender, or, coming off the skipped start, possibly too strong….

  10. Faraz Shaikh - May 31, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    https://www.edx.org/course/bux/bux-sabr101x-sabermetrics-101-1558#.U4nW-vldUZF

    hopefully not late to register.

    • NatsLady - May 31, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      I registered a couple months ago and just got the email… had forgotten. Now I’m going to have to find time, really looking forward to it.

      • Faraz Shaikh - May 31, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Me too. Hopefully to learn some new things there.

  11. unkyd59 - May 31, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    FWIW, I thought Span had gone on the previous pitch… On TV, they had him in a little box, lower RH corner, as the pitcher started to the plate, and he darted out of the little box…when the catcher lost the pitch in the dirt, I assumed Denard had made a clean steal. He was definitely liking to swipe one… Related; I’m still watching on a genuine, old-fashioned cathode ray tube set. It’s big, but not a widescreen ratio. Anybody know why sometimes the scoring box is fully visible, but more often the RH half is cut off? It’s just a minor inconvenience, but I like to see how many are out, when returning from some out-of-room distraction….

    GYFNGOGOGO !!!!

  12. tcostant - May 31, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    6 years $135M

    • unkyd59 - May 31, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      ?

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