Lost a bit after another stellar performance from Joe Ross, and the subsequent big news that he was taking Doug Fister’s spot in the rotation, was the spark that Ian Desmond provided early in yesterday’s 8-3 win over Arizona.
Desmond was given Wednesday off after going through a 4-for-31 stretch, which included a startling 14 strikeouts. In the second inning, Desmond jumped on right-hander Jeremy Hellickson’s first-pitch changeup, smacking a no-doubter over the visitors’ bullpen in deep left-center. The solo shot was Desmond’s 12th homer of the season. The 29-year-old leads the Nationals with five taters since the All-Star break.
“That tells me he’s seeing the baseball,” said Nationals manager Matt Williams, who asked his players to play aggressively Thursday. “And that’s good.”
In the fourth, Desmond ripped a leadoff double off the left field wall and then scored the Nats’ second run moments later on Michael A. Taylor’s groundout.
“It’s short, compact,” Williams said on what he liked about Desmond’s swing on Thursday. “He was calm at the plate, which is important for him, and put the head on the ball. That’s all he needs to do.”
With the Nationals holding a 5-3 lead in the eighth, Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb drilled a liner that appeared destined for a leadoff single until Desmond leaped and snagged the ball, making a spectacular catch.
Wilson Ramos also broke out his bat in the split with Arizona. Coming into the series, Ramos was just 10-for-71 (.141) since July 1. But in three starts against the Diamondbacks, the Nats catcher hit .417 (5-for-12) with five RBIs.
“It was huge,” Clint Robinson said. “Those guys have been working their butts off, trying to get back to where they want to be. Desi came in and had some great at-bats. Willy did the same. Bryce (Harper) had a lot of good at-bats. It was just a total team win. Hitting can be contagious. Just taking advantage, when you get something to hit, do something with it. The hits haven’t been going our way, but we hit a lot of balls hard. Some of them didn’t go for hits. Just putting good swings on balls.”
Harper went 2-for-2 with three walks and two runs scored to raise his season average to .334, second best in the majors. He has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games.
When Anthony Rendon singled to start the eighth and Harper followed with a walk, Robinson provided the exact kind of production that the Nats need in the heart of the lineup behind those two, who tend to love to get on base. The 30-year-old Robinson crushed a three-run homer to right to give the Nats a comfortable five-run separation heading into the final frame. It was Robinson’s first long ball since July 3.
“Sometimes this game can really kind of beat up on you a little bit,” Robinson said. “It’s not one that’s really going to let up on you. When skip comes to us and says, ‘Hey man, do your thing and be aggressive.’ If we go out there and get after it and still get beat, so be it. We’re not going to let them take it to us. We’re going to go out there and still be the aggressors and try to impose our will on the other team. We did that today and got the win.”