Back in spring training, Ian Desmond was being interviewed during a game that was airing on MASN, and reporters were down in the clubhouse as Desmond was talking on air.
The Nationals shortstop was asked about his tendency to swing at the first pitch of an at-bat, to which he replied, “Yeah, I’m just up there ready to party.”
That phrase can certainly apply to Desmond’s first-inning at-bat tonight.
With the Nats already up 2-1, and with Desmond stuck in an 0-for-11 stretch since coming off the disabled list, he didn’t waste any time, turning on a first-pitch cutter from Tim Hudson and crushing it over the left field bullpen.
Desmond’s 18th homer of the season made it a 4-1 lead and resoundingly answered questions about whether it’s worth putting him in the lineup.
After missing 25 games because of a torn oblique, Desmond didn’t go on a rehab assignment before coming back to the Nats, and instead was put right back in the Nationals lineup. He struggled through the first three games upon his return, but clearly is able to turn on a pitch and whack it a long way.
Meanwhile, Hudson has now allowed four runs in the first inning of all three starts against the Nationals this season.
Jordan Zimmermann put the Nats in a hole by allowing a run in the top of the first, but his mates got him four right back.
Update: Zimmermann certainly wasn’t at his best today. Baseball’s ERA leader entering the game allowed four runs over five innings of work, and now is done after needing 102 pitches to get through those five frames.
He still had a 4-1 lead through three, but the Braves notched one in the fourth to make it a 4-2 game, then tied it up on Jason Heyward’s two-run homer which looked like it was shot out of a cannon.
The ball landed in the Nationals’ bullpen, making it a 4-4 game. Tom Gorzelanny will pitch the sixth for the Nats.
Update II: The Nats can’t say they haven’t had any chances tonight. They just haven’t gotten the job done.
Washington stranded five runners from the fifth through seventh innings, two of which were left in scoring position. They put runners on first and second with none out in the sixth only to then have Danny Espinosa, Kurt Suzuki and pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina go down in order, and then had guys at the corners with just one out in the seventh, only to see Michael Morse ground into a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch he saw to end that threat.
We go to the eighth still knotted at 4-4. This has become a battle of the bullpens.
Update III: The missed opportunities continue.
The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth only to watch pinch hitter Tyler Moore pop up to first and Jayson Werth fly out to deep left to end another threat.
Werth got up in the count 3-1 before skying one near the track to put a bow on another blown chance. That made the Nats 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position tonight.
It feels even worse than that.
Update IV: The Nationals have now played 17 extra-inning games this season. They’ll go to extras tonight having not scored in the last eight innings.
Both the Nats and Braves have fared well in bonus baseball situations this season; the Nationals are 10-6 in extras, while the Braves are 6-1.
Update V: We keep on playing.
Both teams have had shots to break this thing open. Both teams have blown said shots.
Bryce Harper has blown a bat into two pieces, spiking it on the plate after striking out to end the 11th. And we still keep going.
Craig Stammen is on to work the 12th for the Nationals - the final reliever left in the ‘pen. We’ll have a bunch of tired relievers in the final two games of this series.
Update VI: It sure as heck wasn’t pretty, but the Nats picked up a 5-4 win in 13 innings.
Danny Espinosa came in to score on an error by Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who stopped a Chad Tracy groundball but couldn’t handle it and then froze. He didn’t throw home, looked to first and then dropped to his knees knowing he’d lost the game for his team.
The Nats are now up six games in the NL East, their largest division lead of the season.