Aug 20, 2014, 10:23 AM EST
With all the errors Ian Desmond piled up early this season, and for all the trouble he’s found keeping his batting average around or above .250, there have been many moments in 2014 where it looked like the two-time Silver Slugger was having a down year.
But perhaps quietly, Desmond has put together a recent stretch that has him on pace for several career-highs.
On Tuesday night he paced the Nationals in their 8-1 win by going 3-for-4 with four RBI, a run and his 100th career stolen base. Twice he notched two-RBI hits to give him 77 on the season. That’s just three away from his career-best of 80 set in 2013, and there are almost six weeks remaining on the schedule. It is also good for fourth overall in the National League.
Desmond is hitting .285 with runners in scoring position – second to only Jayson Werth on the Nats this year – and has 10 more RBI than Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon who are next on the team with 67. He’s developing a knack for getting guys home, something Desmond will credit his teammates for.
“Fortunately for me, guys were on base in front of me,” he said. “They’ve been doing that all year long. Those guys have been doing a great job.”
Manager Matt Williams also touched on that, but lauded Desmond for capitalizing on the opportunities he is presented.
“It’s a good year. He’s been in position, whether it’s been fifth, sixth or seventh, to drive runs in for us. And he’s taking advantage of that,” Williams said.
“When we have the full lineup in there, you’ve got three, four and five that are good on-base guys, so there’s going to be opportunity for him. And it’s important for him to be able to do that, because we certainly rely on him. He’s played every day and he’s one of the leaders on our club, by example out there.”
Desmond – who now holds a .307 on-base percentage – is now hopeful he can provide the same chances for the guys behind him in the lineup.
“I’m trying to do a better job getting on there for Bryce [Harper]. I know it’s no fun hitting with nobody on base, so I’m working my butt off. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it, but I’m trying to get on there for him.”
Desmond’s first RBI hit was with the bases loaded in the third inning. He pulled the first delivery from Chase Anderson to left field, a 77 mile per hour curveball thrown inside.
Desmond’s third and fourth RBI came in the sixth inning on another single, this one to opposite field off Eury De La Rosa. It was an 87 mile per hour slider he took the other way.
Both swings were compact and short, and both were with two outs. That is something Williams is pleased to see from his star shortstop, who does have the tendency to go for the fences in a given at-bat.
“Tonight was an example of him just shortening up and taking the two-run single, and that’s important. That’s how you have big RBI years,” Williams said.
“He’s going to hit a bunch of homers. We know that. But when he can take the two-run single, he’s feeling it and he’s seeing the ball good.”
Desmond said it wasn’t entirely a conscious move to shorten his swing, that both pitches dictated a more compact approach. Either way, the 28-year-old is starting to see his persistence pay off.
Desmond began June with a .226 average and has now raised that number 25 points to a respectable .251. It’s still well below his career mark of .269, and it’s a far cry from the .292 he posted in 2012 and the .280 he put up last season. Still, Desmond is seeing progress and maintains confidence in his strategy at the plate.
“I gotta stick to my approach and what’s worked for me,” he said. “I know it times it looks ugly and it feels ugly, but I’ve had success with it and I can’t change now.”
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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