50 for 20

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Ian Desmond has been brewing something special lately.

Even as the Nationals have been swaying around the .500 mark this season, they’ve been fortunate enough to boast some exceptional performances. Anchoring the pitching rotation is Jordan Zimmermann, who is tied for second in the National League wins and is seventh with a 2.44 ERA. Rookie left-hander Ian Krol has been impressive in short relief, and Ross Ohlendorf — he of the vintage kick-and-deliver windup — shone in his Nationals debut Wednesday in Colorado.

A Gold Glove finalist last season, Desmond is stating his case again this year.

A Gold Glove finalist last season, Desmond is stating his case for the award again this year.

Then there’s Desmond. Fresh off a career-high 15-game hitting streak that ended Friday night in Cleveland, Desmond has quietly provided consistency in a lineup desperately in need of a spark.  After batting .220 in May, Desmond turned it up, starting with a visit from Baltimore on May 27. Since then, he’s hit .357 (25-for-70) and is a scorching .385 so far in June. He’s also reaching base at a .439 clip for the month.

During a 3-2 win over the New York Mets on June 4, Desmond was 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, and RBI and a run scored. In a doubleheader against the Twins on June 9, Desmond belted three hits, tallying two RBI and two runs scored in the afternoon bill, while providing the game-winning RBI double in the seventh inning of the nightcap. He knocked in three of the Nats five runs in a win over the Rockies on June 12, all with two outs, finishing 2-for-3 with a walk. The next day, he added four more hits on a 4-for-4 outing with an RBI and a run. The Nats won 5-4.

The shortstop has 14 RBI through 14 games in June to bring his total to 34. He’s also leading the team with 73 hits.

If that’s not enough, Desmond’s stepped up his game on defense as well. After a shaky start of the season, during which he committed seven errors in the first three weeks, Desmond hasn’t had a miscue since April 21. That’s a career-high 50 games without a mistake in the field, the longest active streak among Major League shortstops.  His recent performance hearkens back to a stellar 2012 in which Desmond was a Gold Glove finalist.

That’s the kind of production that will hopefully rub off on the rest of the clubhouse as the season wears on. Perhaps it’s already starting to: rookie infielder Anthony Rendon has hit safely in 10 straight games and first baseman Adam LaRoche strung together a nine-game hitting streak of his own to start the month. On the defensive side, Ryan Zimmerman has committed just two errors since May 18.

If nothing else, Desmond is providing a blueprint for the rest of the lineup to follow. Hopefully his performance is a harbinger for things to come.

2 Comments

I have to be honest and say that I have been one of those who thought that Rick Ekstein was a problem concerning the Nats offensive woes. However, if both he and Davey Johnson were on the same page in advocating a more aggressive hitting approach (especially in terms of hitting fastballs) and the players largely ignore that advice, then you have to find Johnson the one to be most at fault. He is the Head Coach. If the players are giving him short shrift then it is up to Johnson to crack the whip. I would hope that Johnson does not want to leave a mediocre legacy in his last year of managing the club. Question is does he still have the fire at age 70 to kick some behinds when necessary and get this club moving again.

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