Following Tuesday night’s 8-1 loss in Atlanta, Ian Desmond spoke up, saying that the team needed to start playing more cohesively, that each player needed to stop trying to win all by themselves. While Desmond brushes off the idea of being a clubhouse leader, per se, his solid play on the field has helped support his ever-growing role as a vocal presence on the team.
Perhaps as a result, on Wednesday, Davey Johnson granted Desmond an opportunity to do something he has never done before in the Major Leagues – hit in the cleanup spot. In the shortstop’s 487th career game, he will bat fourth for the first time, helping fill the void left by the ailing Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, who will sit out a second straight game with a hobbled ankle and hamstring.
Desmond will have a tough assignment, but in many ways a fitting one when it comes to Wednesday’s opposing starter. He and a different looking Nationals lineup have drawn the perfect opposing pitcher to test a team-first attitude in the softer-tossing, location-first game plan of Paul Maholm.
“Work the count, get in hitter’s counts, and when you get your pitch, don’t miss it,” said Steve Lombardozzi, who will hit and play second Wednesday night, about his approach. “I saw that a little bit from his last start. I’m not trying to do too much, just move the line.”
Lombardozzi wasn’t the only one studying video of Maholm’s last outing, in which he struggled against the Tigers. Tyler Moore, earning his second straight start in left field following a double and the Nationals lone run scored Tuesday, is looking to help Washington replicate Detroit’s patient approach to make it pay off once again.
“I saw some of his last start, where he struggled against Detroit,” he explained. “You just have to be very, very patient. Just get a pitch in your zone that you want to hit. Don’t hit his pitch that he wants you to hit.”
That may seem simple enough, but when the offense isn’t fully clicking, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do too much, of trying to hit the proverbial, mythical five-run homer. Just like Desmond, Moore recognized some of that leaking through in Washington’s approach Tuesday night.
“With Tim Hudson last night, he pitched well, but we chased some balls out of the zone,” he explained, but was quick to take personal accountability for the overaggressive approach. “I’m as guilty as anybody. You’ve just got to preach it and preach it and get the job done so we can get some runners on base.”
Just like Desmond said – if everyone does simply what they are capable of, perhaps the Nationals can find a win over both Paul Maholm and Atlanta, something that has been elusive so far this season.