Had the Nationals lost to the New York Mets on Thursday night, they would have fallen to 10-14 for the season. It would have been their fourth straight loss, seventh in eight games and they would have been staring at the task of stopping a losing streak against two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who opens a nasty 13-game stretch of the Nationals' schedule on Thursday.
So while their 4-3 win over the Mets wasn't necessarily a turning point in their season, it was a key chance to interrupt a skid before four series with the Giants, Phillies, Braves and Marlins.
"It was nice to come back and just play another good game," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We've played OK. We've lost some tough ballgames - a couple of them, we actually played pretty good. But I think it was important to come out and play another good ballgame. If they singled there at the end of the game and tied it up on us, we still had gone out and played a really good ballgame in a lot of areas - baserunning, timely hits pitching. So I think it was important for us to play another good ballgame after (Wednesday) night, and fortunately, we were able to come up with the win, also."
Here are last night's awards:
Ian Desmond: On Tuesday, Desmond left the team for Florida, where his wife Chelsey was ready to give birth to the couple's first son, Grayson. He was hitting .205 at the time, and had made seven errors. His son was born Tuesday afternoon - "Indescribable," Desmond said when asked how it felt, - and when he returned on Thursday, he played possibly his best game of the year. He was loose and confident in the field, tripled in his second at-bat and homered in his third. Desmond wasn't buying into the idea that he was able to excel now that the anticipation of his son's birth is over - "I feel exactly the same as I did before I left," he said - but he sure looked like something was different. We'll see if it continues on Friday.
Livan Hernandez: After a rain delay - and what Hernandez considered to be a truncated warm-up time - in his last start in Pittsburgh, the right-hander was back on his game Thursday, allowing three runs in eight innings. He was spotting all of his pitches effectively, and limited the Mets to a run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings when it looked like they were on the way to scoring more. "My sinker was working, and the breaking ball, too," Hernandez said. "I saw it in the bullpen early, and I thought everything was going to be alright in the game today. All of the pitches were going for strikes in the bullpen."
Drew Storen: The reliever (we won't call him a closer) converted his fourth straight save, allowing a hit in the ninth inning and getting Willie Harris on a called strikeout to end the game. On a 3-2 pitch, after Storen had thrown his former teammate four straight sinkers, he froze him with a slider to end the game. "That's what I wanted," Storen said. "That goes a long way in showing how well Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) knows me, and that's amazing, because I haven't really thrown to him that long. With a base open there, I don't want to give Willie something to hit. If I leave a fastball up there, he's going to make me pay for it."
Michael Morse: The left fielder has looked lately like he's about to put it together at the plate, but he's still looking for a consistent stretch of hitting. He went 0-for-4 on Thursday, dropping his season average to .221.
Adam LaRoche: After going 4-for-11 with a homer in the series against the Pirates, LaRoche was 1-for-12 in three games against the Mets, including an 0-for-4 performance Thursday night.
In Case You Missed It:
* One of the game's biggest plays came in the seventh inning, after Jose Reyes singled to right with two outs. The Mets shortstop is one of the fastest runners in the league, and the Nationals knew he'd be trying to run to get himself in scoring position. Hernandez threw Ivan Rodriguez a changeup, and even though Reyes got a good jump, Rodriguez threw a strike to second to end the inning. "My main priority is defense. I want to get my guys - my pitchers - to have a good game, calling a good game for them. I take a lot of pride in that," Rodriguez said. "I made a very, very good throw. I don't want to lie to you - that was a missile that I threw to second base."
* With Jerry Hairston on first base and Rodriguez at the plate in the fourth inning, it was a perfect time for a hit-and-run. First, Rodriguez can be a double play machine; he hit into one on Thursday, and is closing in on the all-time record. But he's also able to shoot singles to right field, particularly with the first baseman holding a runner, and the Nationals got Hairston to third with a successful hit-and-run, putting him in position to score on Livan Hernandez's bunt (more on that in a second). "They know we're hitting and running there. They're pretty sure, so they're throwing over there," Riggleman said. "If he tips that off by leaning (toward second) and trying to get too good a jump, there's a chance they might pitch out on him. But he just did it the right way. He kept his composure, didn't show anything, and allowed Pudge to get a ball he could hit instead of a pitchout."
* Now, Hernandez's bunt: When he put a dribbler in front of home plate, he slowed up for a second, effectively boxing out Josh Thole from getting to the ball. Thole tried to tag Hairston at home, but couldn't, and everyone was safe. "I've done that play before. This is the way I do it - when the ball doesn't go too far, you've got to wait, so the catcher doesn't catch the ball fast and throw the people out more easily, or make the out at home plate. I did it last year, too," Hernandez said. But Thole told ESPN New York he thought Hernandez had blocked his path slightly, "He delayed my path to the ball a little bit," Thole said. "But I actually spoke to the home plate umpire about it. He said he didn't see him slow up. I guess typically the rule is that if (the bunter is) going to try to cause the play go a different way, then that would be the issue. But (home plate umpire Brian Runge) didn't think there was any issue. I thought we had a chance at the plate. I went ahead and took it."
After throwing a lot of information at you, I'll keep it to one question today:
1. Desmond said he didn't do anything different after the birth of his son. But I thought he looked different on the field, and Riggleman said it was nice to see him play a loose game. Did you see anything different? And does it make you optimistic he's about to turn a corner?
Leave your answers in the comments section, as well as anything else from last night that's on your mind.