Results tagged ‘ Ian Desmond ’

Ian Desmond punishes intentional walks

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Rockies faced a difficult choice in the sixth inning of Monday’s game at Nationals Park, as Bryce Harper trode to the plate with runners at second and third and one out in a 2-2 game. They could have right-hander Rob Scahill pitch to Harper, or walk him intentionally to load the bases in order to go after Ian Desmond in hopes of inducing an inning-ending double play.

Colorado manager Walt Weiss picked Option B, setting up Desmond to punish yet another free pass. And when Scahill looped a first-pitch curveball over the plate, Desmond blistered a shot down the left-field line for a go-ahead, bases-clearing double.

The hit made Desmond 11-for-16 (.647) with 16 RBI in his career when the previous batter is walked intentionally, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s certainly a small sample, but an impressive one nonetheless.

“I just try to do the same thing I do every other time,” Desmond said. “And it’s just a good situation to hit in — bases loaded, less than two outs — that’s what you’re looking for.”

Indeed, Desmond has feasted in those spots as well.

With the bases full this season, he has gone 6-for-6 with a double, a home run and 14 RBI. In 61 career plate appearances in those situations, he has posted a line of .444/.377/.611, with three doubles, two home runs and 54 RBI, including seven sacrifice flies. Among active players with at least 50 bases-loaded plate appearances, Desmond’s batting average ranks first.

Always an aggressive hitter, Desmond certainly has been a free swinger with the bases packed, never drawing a walk. In his six chances this season, he has seen a total of 14 pitches.

But Desmond said that regardless of the situation, he doesn’t walk up to the plate with any additional motivation to do damage.

“If you need any extra boost at this level, you’re not where you’re supposed to be,” he said. “None of us are up there hoping for an extra boost or an extra edge or anything like that. I’m trying to do my best when there’s nobody on or when the bases loaded, or intentional walk or not.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Williams: ‘Desmond and Werth need day off’

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – After Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Braves, Nationals manager Matt Williams acknowledged that shortstop Ian Desmond and right fielder Jayson Werth needed a day off during the team’s road trip, which starts Monday.

Both players are currently in slumps. During the four game series against Atlanta, Desmond went 2-for -16 [.125] with 10 strikeouts.  In the last two games combined, Desmond struck out six straight times.

“It’s a long road trip, a very tough couple of games against the Astros and all the expectations of this series [against the Braves]. Guys get mentally tired. So to answer your question, [Desmond] needs a day,” Williams said.

Werth is 4-for-37 in his last 10 games and has seen his batting average dip to .271. On June 12, Werth was at .296.

“We need to look long and hard about Jayson. We’ll spend a couple of hours on the plane talking about that one,” Williams said.

Error taken away from Nats’ Desmond

WASHINGTON — After Tuesday’s game, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond had been charged with nine errors, which led the Major Leagues. However, an error was taken away from Desmond by Major League Baseball before Wednesday’s game against the Angels.
 
On April 11, Braves outfielder B.J. Upton came to the plate and hit a hard groundball to Desmond, who backhanded the ball but did not field it cleanly. Desmond was charged with an error on the play. Upton asked for a review on the play, and the call was overturned to a hit by Joe Torre, the leagues executive vice president of baseball operations, on Wednesday.  Desmond and Upton were not available for comment.
–Bill Ladson

Defensive woes continue for Ian Desmond

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — For the second time in five nights, Ian Desmond stood in front of his locker and answered questions about his faltering defense following Monday night’s 4-2 loss to the Angels.

Desmond had spoken forcefully about his struggles after making two errors on Thursday against the Cardinals

“I’m going to keep on grinding,” he said at the time. “I was out there hoping that they would keep on hitting me ground balls. That’s all you can do, just go out and keep on playing. As long as my name’s in the lineup, I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s just, I’ve got to execute. And I will.”

Desmond appeared much more subdued on Monday after racking up his Major League-leading eighth and ninth errors of the season during a disastrous eighth inning that saw the Angels score four runs to rally from a 1-0 deficit.

“Not making the plays,” said Desmond, who again sat waiting at his locker for reporters to arrive. “I wish I had an answer.”

Leading off the eighth against Tyler Clippard, Albert Pujols bounced a ground ball up the middle. Desmond ranged to his left, reached out and had the ball glance off his glove. He scrambled to pick it up, but it was too late to attempt a throw.

It wasn’t a routine play but one Desmond certainly expects himself to make.

“I’m a big league shortstop,” he said. “Not that tough.”

By the time Desmond made his second miscue of the inning, the damage was done. Erick Aybar tied the game with an RBI single, and Raul Ibanez smacked a three-run double, with Desmond throwing wildly to home to allow Ibanez to take third.

It was Desmond’s third two-error game of the season, with all nine of the mistakes coming in the past 12 games — five fielding, four throwing. Going into Monday, no other Major League player had more than five total, and five entire teams had fewer than nine.

As Desmond pointed out on Thursday, he’s been through and come out of this sort of stretch before. Just last year, he committed seven errors by April 21, then didn’t make his next one until June 28, finishing with 20 and as a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

The Nationals, who lead the Majors in errors as a club, will have to hope Desmond can reverse course again. He believes he can.

“You use everything in the past to make yourself better,” he said. “This is going to be one of those circumstances, and I’ve just got to weather the storm.”

Follow Andrew Simon @AndrewSimonMLB.

Defensive miscues haunting Nationals

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Nationals’ defense has been an issue all season, but the sloppiness seemed to rise to another level during Thursday night’s 8-0 loss to the Cardinals.

The Nats committed a season-high four errors that helped bring in two unearned runs, and that doesn’t even include some of their other miscues in the field. It was only the 12th game with at least four errors in the franchise’s 10-year Washington history, and the first since July 15, 2011, against the Braves.

“Those happen,” Nats manager Matt Williams said of the mistakes. “ It just seems like it’s happening an extraordinary amount to us.”

Williams isn’t imagining things. Washington now leads the Major Leagues with 20 errors on the season, including seven by shortstop Ian Desmond, who committed two on Thursday. By contrast, the Orioles have an MLB-low three errors, and several other teams remain in single digits.

Of course, errors don’t tell the whole story, but advanced metrics aren’t smiling on the Nats’ gloves either. Even before Thursday’s showing, they ranked 23rd in the Majors in FanGraphs’ defensive value and 26th in Baseball Prospectus’ defensive efficiency.

Friday might have been the low point — or at least the Nats will hope it was.

The Cardinals started a three-run first-inning when Desmond mishandled Matt Carpenter’s grounder and pitcher Taylor Jordan did the same on Kolten Wong’s. In the fourth, Desmond made a bad throw to first, and on the next play, umpires ruled that second baseman Danny Espinosa dropped Desmond’s flip while transferring to his throwing hand. In the sixth, Desmond failed to make a play on Adam Wainwright’s grounder into the hole, although that was ruled a hit. And finally, in the eighth, right fielder Jayson Werth lost Yadier Molina’s line drive in the lights as it sailed past him.

First baseman Adam LaRoche said he doesn’t see any trend in all the miscues.

“Some of it gets magnified, you kick a couple of balls,” he said. “Maybe we’re pressing a little. It’s the same way at the plate. Like tonight, nothing going on, guys trying a little too hard to expand the zone and you end up looking worse. It could be the same way defensively. We have a really good defensive club, is the thing. It’s not showing right now, but I have a feeling that by the end of the year those numbers are going to be our specialty. We are just too good defensively to make the kind of errors we are.”

Williams isn’t prescribing any radical fixes. The team will prepare the way it already was scheduled to on Friday, which means a full session of ground balls.

“We just keep grinding away at it,” he said.

Follow Andrew Simon @AndrewSimonMLB

20-20 (Part II): Ian Desmond joins elite company

By Andrew Simon

When Ian Desmond swiped second base in the seventh of Sunday’s nightcap against the Marlins, it gave him 20 stolen bases and his second consecutive season with at least 20 steals and 20 homers.

Considering that Desmond plays a prime defensive position at shortstop, that blend of power and speed is a rare commodity. Six other players have hit the 20-20 mark this year, and all of them are outfielders. Only three other infielders are anywhere close with a week left to go, but none of them are shortstops.

In fact, Desmond is now only the seventh shortstop in history with multiple 20-20 seasons, joining Hanley Ramirez (four), Jimmy Rollins (four), Alex Rodriguez (three), Derek Jeter (two), Barry Larkin (two) and Alan Trammell (two).

“He does it all,” said center fielder Denard Span, who is first-year teammates with Desmond. “I’m gonna be honest with you — has a strong arm, hits for power, hits for average. He’s the total package. I knew him for a few years before I got here but I never had a chance to watch him play up close and personal and he’s definitely the real deal.”

Span also praised the intelligence, work ethic and drive Desmond brings on a daily basis.

The 28-year-old has played in and started 153 of the Nats’ 156 games this year and on Monday will hit the 154-game plateau for the third time in his four full big league seasons. Manager Davey Johnson called him “Iron Man Desi,” on Saturday, when he brought him up as a worthy candidate for team MVP, alongside Jayson Werth.

Quality has matched quantity, too. Desmond’s .286/.338/.465 batting line with 20 homers gets him close to his numbers from a breakout 2012, and he already has set a career high with 80 RBIs. He also has accrued a career-best 5.1 wins above replacement (according to FanGraphs.com), thanks to solid contributions offensively, defensively and on the bases. That puts him second among MLB shortstops, behind only Troy Tulowitzki.

“Every day he’s ready to go, same intensity,” Span said. “He never looks tired, never looks frustrated or flustered. He’s always ready to go. He’s definitely a gamer.”

Two innings after Desmond reached 20-20, he took first on an intentional walk. With one out in the ninth inning of a tie game, he broke for second on the back end of a double steal and slid in safely for No. 21.

Clearly, he wasn’t satisfied.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely a blessing,” he said of the accomplishment, which earned him an ovation from the crowd at the end of the inning. “I wasn’t always headed down this road in my life, and I’m just fortunate and try to take every day as a blessing and just try to do the best I can every day.”

Breaking down the Nats’ playoff chances

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

With their all-important doubleheader sweep of the Braves on Tuesday, the Nationals have won 10 of 11, 21 of 27 and 27 of 37.

But with only 11 games remaining, their playoff odds have not improved much.

CoolStandings.com pegs Washington’s chances of reaching the postseason at 3.8 percent. Baseball Prospectus has them even lower, at 3.3 percent.

The Reds have a 4 1/2-game lead in the National League Wild Card race, which is fairly significant with less than two weeks left in the season. Their magic number to clinch the Wild Card is seven, meaning a combined seven Reds wins and Nats losses.

“I mean, we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Denard Span said. “We haven’t gotten over any humps yet. [The Braves] are in the playoffs. We’re not. So it feels good for today … but that’s all I’m concerned about right now.”

Yes, long odds like these have been overcome before. In 2011, St. Louis went 8-3 and passed the Braves, who finished 2-8. That same year, the Rays trailed Boston by four games with 12 to play and won the Wild Card. But it doesn’t happen often.

For a team that has struggled with expectations all season, however, that might be a good thing.

“We’re playing with house money,” Ian Desmond said over the weekend. “Everyone kind of wrote us off, and we’re fighting our way back in. Just keep on playing and what will be will be.”

The easiest way to think about the race is in terms of that magic number: seven. If the Reds finish 7-3, they automatically clinch the Wild Card — even if the Nationals go 11-0. If the Reds go 5-5 and the Nationals finish 9-2 (which is still a tremendous stretch), the Reds still clinch.

All of that assumes, of course, that we have a two-team race for the second Wild Card spot. In reality, it is a fluid situation.

The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are separated by 2 1/2 games in the NL Central. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will play six of their final nine games against one another. The Nationals will open a three-game series in St. Louis at the beginning of next week. Depending on how those games shake out, the Nationals could find themselves targeting another NL Central team for that final Wild Card spot.

That said, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Nationals’ sweep of the Braves on Tuesday. The Reds are in Houston beating up on Bo Porter and the Astros, so if the Nationals can win again Wednesday and merely keep up with Cincinnati over these three days, it will be a major victory.

Playoff implications aside, the Nationals are building momentum for a strong finish. They beat a Braves team that had bullied them at Nationals Park all season. It was about pride as much as anything else.

Sure, the odds say that the Nats will not make the playoffs. But they also seem poised to finish well above .500 with the confidence that this core group of players can still get the job done, even if they have to wait until next year to do so.

“By no means are we to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow yet,” Desmond said. “But we are playing better and I think that’s all of us in here really wanted to see us do, finish the season with some pride and put up the year people thought we were going to.”

Randy Knorr questions Harper’s hustle

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Bryce Harper has become one of the most popular players in baseball because of the intensity that he brings to every play. But with two on and two out in the eighth inning on Friday, that intensity was lacking.

Harper fouled a 3-0 pitch from left-hander Scott Rice before hitting a routine ground ball to second base. The All-Star’s jog to first base would have gone unnoticed, except for the fact that Daniel Murphy bobbled the ball. Harper was easily thrown out and slammed his helmet on the ground.

After the game, bench coach Randy Knorr questioned Harper’s effort on the play.

“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough [is] he gets frustrated,” said Knorr, who took over for Davey Johnson in the fourth inning Friday when the skipper left the dugout with an illness. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s going to have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times, and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”

Harper, who missed 31 games with bursitis in his left knee earlier this season, said he was confident that Murphy would have thrown him out on the play.

“I mean, ground out to Murphy. He’s pretty good over there, so in that situation I think he makes that play every single day,” Harper said.

Knorr agreed that Harper would’ve been thrown out on the play, even with maximum effort. But the bench coach also said that play was indicative of a larger trend this season.

“[It’s] something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we’re just going to have to take him out of the game,” Knorr said. “He’s been trying, but it just shows up at times. Like in that situation, he’s got a chance to tie the ballgame up or go ahead and he doesn’t get it done. He knows he’s out, and it just comes out of him.”

Ryan Zimmerman was running to second base at the time and had his back turned to Harper. While he couldn’t say whether the 20-year-old went all-out in that instant, Zimmerman said that Harper plays hard every game like everyone else. Ian Desmond saw the play from the dugout steps.

“I know that when he got 3-0 and he let it go, I know that takes a lot of guts in that situation, lefty-lefty. Those same guts are going to be what makes us give this final push in this last month,” Desmond said. “As far as the baserunning goes, it takes guts also to run out the ones that you think are going to be outs. He does it 95, 99, almost 100 percent of the time, and I think this one might’ve just got pointed out because the guy made a bobble or whatever.

“I mean, he’s 20 years old and I think he’s still dealing with some emotions of the game,” Desmond continued. “It’s hard to remember a lot of the time that he is 20. What most of us were doing at 20 wasn’t this.”

A big day for Steve Lombardozzi

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

As the Nationals returned from the All-Star break and the losses began to pile up, Steve Lombardozzi waited patiently for his opportunity to make an impact. On Thursday, he got it.

The 24-year-old spelled Anthony Rendon at second base in the Nationals’ series-finale against the Pirates and went 3-for-5 at the plate with two doubles, two runs scored, and one RBI. He also made a few big defensive plays, leaving his imprint in every aspect of Washington’s 9-7 walk-off win.

“That’s why I play this game,” he said. “I want to get in there and give this team a boost, get some energy and try and give us a spark. And I was able to do that today. It was a fun win, and a big one.”

Since the day that he first joined the Nationals in September 2011, Lombardozzi has more or less been a bench player. He has played three positions this season and pinch-hit 34 times. And after filling in for an injured Danny Espinosa in May, he hasn’t had consistent playing time all season.

“You want to help, so I cheer from the bench when I’m not playing,” Lombardozzi said, “but it’s good to get in there and pick these guys up a bit and get them going.”

Lombardozzi’s bunt single in the first inning helped the Nationals get on the board early, and his ground-rule double to left field in the eighth inning scored Roger Bernadina, the first of three much-needed insurance runs.

“Lombo’s unbelievable,” Bryce Harper, who won the game with a two-run homer in the ninth, said. “He’s an unbelievable player, he has been since the first time I met him in the fall league. He can play second base like no other and he can swing it. He’s a .300 hitter and I really believe he’s going to help us down the stretch. He’s a great ballplayer.”

Lombardozzi wasn’t sure that he would even be playing in Thursday’s game until a few hours before first pitch. Ian Desmond missed Wednesday’s game with a blister on his hand, and when he was a late addition to the lineup on Thursday, Lombardozzi thought he would go back to the bench. Instead, manager Davey Johnson decided to rest Rendon and give Lombardozzi a rare day of multiple at-bats.

“It’s a whole different ball game when you get a start, know you’re going to get 3, 4, 5 at-bats,” Lombardozzi said. “So it’s a completely different mindset, and again it’s fun to get out there and compete.”

Thoughts from the clubhouse on Eckstein’s firing

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

After watching his offense score five runs in three games against the Dodgers, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo decided that it was time for a change. He fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who was in his ninth season with the club, including his fifth as hitting coach.

Manager Davey Johnson was not happy about the move, calling Monday “arguably the toughest day I’ve had in baseball.” Here’s what some of the players had to say:

Chad Tracy: “A lot of us feel like we had some responsibility in him being let go. There’s nobody on this coaching staff that works harder than Rick Eckstein. It’s unfortunate just because it’s not his fault. I think he’s a great guy, first of all. He’ll land on his feet somewhere. There’s no doubt about that. And I really enjoyed having him around here the last two years.”

Adam LaRoche: “It’s unfortunate for we, the offense, to put them in a position where they have to make the move. He’s a great hitting coach, there’s nothing he could have done. It’s on us. It’s hard to send your whole offense down to the minors.”

Ian Desmond: “Rick was part of something really special here. It gets hard to remember that a couple of years ago there were 15,000 or 20,000 people in the stands and a sub-.500 team getting run out there every day. With Rick we got better, we continued to get better and we ended up winning a division title. I think he’s got four or five Silver Sluggers on his resume. He’s done a lot of special things and he’s obviously a very good hitting coach. But this is a very cutthroat business and it’s all about what have you done for me lately. Unfortunately for him, he had to go.”

LaRoche: “You want a hitting coach who’s in the cage all day long, always there waiting for guys to come down there. I don’t think you could ever walk in that cage anytime of the day and not see Eck in there.”

Desmond: “I think one of the best qualities of Rick was that he was the epitome of a team player. If I said, ‘Rick I want to go out and hit in some rain and lightning,’ he would do it.”

Ryan Zimmerman: “It’s tough. It’s part of the professional business. When things don’t happen on the field, things like this have to happen. But it’s the players’ fault. We’re the ones not hitting, we’re the ones not scoring runs. When it comes down to it, no hitting coach or pitching coach can do anything about this but us.”

Tracy: “I don’t think anybody can blame Rick Eckstein for any of the woes that we’ve had on the offensive side. And Rick Schu, he’s been around a lot of us, so he knows our swings. I’m sure he’s probably looking at a lot of them on video as we speak to try to get familiar before he gets here. It may change the atmosphere around here. And it may not. We don’t know. But we’ll move on and flip the page and keep playing baseball.”

Zimmerman: “I’ve hit the same way since I was ten years old. When you get to this level, it’s your job to hit. We get paid a lot of money to hit and do our job. … No coach is going to come in here and turn someone who isn’t a .300 hitter into a .300 hitter. When you get to this level, you are what you are.”

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