Shortstop Ian Desmond kept going back to belief.
It was Tuesday night, after another rough loss where the pitching staff had done their job for the most part, but the Nationals bats had stayed cold. Standing in front of his locker in the Nationals clubhouse, Desmond looked for ways to explain how his team had managed only seven runs in five games.
He said that his teammates would not be going 4-for-4 every game or hitting home run after home run. He talked about being surrounded by major league ball players who had the experience of going through streaks in a season or at the plate and how they would find a way to break out of the slump.
Wednesday, with the game on the line, Ian Desmond delivered with his bat.
Facing the Diamondbacks’ J.J. Putz and with Bryce Harper standing at second base down one run with two outs, Desmond crushed a two-run, walk-off round tripper that erased the Nationals five-game losing string and lifted his team back in the win column for the first time in seven days.
Second baseman Danny Espinosa, who himself has been struggling to find his rhythm in the first month of the season, saw exactly what Desmond was doing during the game-changing play.
“He did a great job,” Espinosa said. “It’s not an easy at-bat against Putz. He throws hard, got the ball up in the zone, and he’s got a good splitter. So for him to put that at-bat together right there, that’s an important at-bat. He put a good swing on that ball. That ball was probably a little up in the zone. Really got on top of that ball and drove that ball.”
Manager Davey Johnson said he saw Desmond turn the corner after a recent 0-for-13 dry spell. He said he could visualize Desmond coming through in the biggest of clutch moments.
“Desi has been swinging the bat awfully good here lately,” Johnson said. “He is a run producer. I had a good feeling with him.”
The Nationals were 0-6 on the young season when trailing after eight innings until Desmond’s heroics. When you find a way to come through in the most desperate of times, people call you a leader. But Desmond would have none of that.
“Honestly, I am trying to get the next guy to the plate the whole game,” Desmond said. “It is not really about me. It is just about trusting the guy behind you and (to) keep on moving forward. I can’t really say (I am) a leader or anything like that. It just feels good to win.”
Well, his teammates think of him as a leader.
Nationals reliever Craig Stammen has played alongside Desmond for the better part of three-plus seasons and has seen the Sarasota, Fla., native grow into the role of leader not by self-appointment, but by being that example on the field.
“It is big time,” Stammen said. “He is big time leader for our team. He stepped up tonight. We really needed it.”