Desmond gets the Nats going (Nats lose 3-2 in 11 innings)

Ian Desmond’s first half continues to get more impressive.

The Nationals shortstop cranked a two-run homer in the fourth inning today, his 13th of the season, that gave the Nats a 2-0 lead over the Diamondbacks.

Desmond took a massive swing at an 0-1 slider from Arizona starter Patrick Corbin and came up empty. I think I felt the gust of wind from Desmond’s hack up here in the press box, about 3,000 feet in the air.

After working the count to 2-2, Desmond then got another slider, and he didn’t miss this one. Another huge swing sent the ball into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center, putting the Nats on the scoreboard.

Desmond now stands alone as the Nats’ team leader in homers, passing Bryce Harper, who is at 12. Harper’s been out nearly a month while on the DL, but it took until now for someone to move past him on the home run list.

Ten of Desmond’s 13 homers have given the Nats the lead, and his 34 extra-base hits leads all major league shortstops. He also came into today having played 58 straight games without committing an error.

Impressive stuff.

Stephen Strasburg and Corbin came into today’s game holding two of the eight lowest ERAs among major league starting pitchers.

This was set up as a pretty solid pitchers’ duel, and so far, Strasburg has been a bit sharper than his Diamondbacks counterpart.

The Nationals righty has allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out three over five scoreless innings, while Corbin surrendered the two runs on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts through four.

Update: Corbin gave up the two-run homer in the fourth. Strasburg served up a two-run homer in the sixth, and now we’re tied again.

Two batters after Strasburg allowed Corbin to reach leading off the sixth on a single to left, Aaron Hill smoked a two-run shot into the bullpen in left-center, knotting the game at 2-2.

Strasburg allowed three hits and a walk in the sixth but was able to escape having allowed just the two-run homer. He stranded two and kept the game tied, but has now thrown 102 pitches through six.

It’ll be interesting to see if Davey Johnson sticks with Strasburg to start the seventh or goes to Fernando Abad, who was warming when Strasburg started to get into trouble in the sixth.

Update II: Strasburg did indeed work the seventh, and it took him just 11 pitches to retire the side in order and get back to the dugout. Once there, he was met by Johnson, who gave his right-hander a handshake and a pat on the backside.

Strasburg is done after seven innings, having allowed two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 113 pitches (the most he’d thrown since May 16), 76 for strikes.

The Nats and D-backs are still tied after seven, thanks to a couple of excellent defensive plays by Arizona defenders. Gerardo Parra covered a ton of ground to bring in Tyler Moore’s deep shot to right-center leading off the seventh, getting to the ball just before he ran into the wall. After Chris Marrero singled with two outs and pinch-runner Jeff Kobernus stole second (his first career stolen base) to put the go-ahead run in scoring position, Paul Goldschmidt then robbed Denard Span of extra bases by snaring his hot-shot grounder down the first base line.

Some serious leather being flashed today, including by Span himself, who made a leaping grab at the wall early to take extra bases away from Jason Kubel.

Drew Storen is on to work the eighth for the Nats.

Update III: Storen struck out the side in a dominating eighth, continuing his recent hot streak, Ian Krol pitched around two hits to put up a zero in the ninth, and after the Nats were unable to do any damage of their own off Arizona’s Brad Ziegler and David Hernandez, we go to extra innings.

The Nats are 4-4 in extra-inning games this season.

Update IV: Both teams had chances in the 10th. Neither was able to convert.

The D-backs put a runner in scoring position with one out, but Rafael Soriano was able to shut the door and keep the game tied. In the bottom of the 10th, Span reached with one out but didn’t go anywhere. Ryan Zimmerman lifted a deep fly to right, but came up about 8-10 feet shy of a walk-off homer. Instead, they keep playing.

To the 11th. Craig Stammen comes in.

Update V: Miguel Montero led off the 11th with a ground rule double to center, and three batters later, Didi Gregorius dropped down a perfect safety squeeze bunt that brought in pinch-runner A.J. Pollock with the go-ahead run.

That ended up being the difference, as Heath Bell locked up the save for the D-backs in the bottom half of the inning to give Arizona a 3-2 win.

The Nats are unable to pick up a three-game sweep and drop back to .500 on the season. Up next: A three-game set in New York.

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