Ian Desmond committed his 15th error of the 2010 season in the eighth inning of a game with Cincinnati on June 5th last year. It wasn't a throwing or fielding error but a call for interference when he collided with Reds' infielder Brandon Phillips on the basepaths between second and third as the runner tried to advance on a wild pitch thrown by Nats' lefty Sean Burnett. The Reds scored three runs in the eighth inning that day, to turn a close 2-1 game in a 5-1 Cincinnati victory. It was the 55th game of the season for Desmond, who ended up leading the league in errors in 2010.
Last night in L.A., Desmond made two errors, no.'s 14 and 15 of 2011, both of them fielding errors and both of them in a two-run fourth in which the Dodgers pulled within a run at 3-2 after Washington had gotten up early on an RBI double by Michael Morse and a two-run home run by lefty John Lannan. A short-hop on a Juan Uribe grounder got under Desmond's glove for error number fourteen, which allowed two runs to score. Number fifteen was a misplay on a potential double play grounder off Jamey Carroll's bat which resulted in no further damage outside of the four extra pitches Lannan was forced to throw that inning.
"I'll tell you," Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said when asked about Desmond's errors after the game, "This is a hard infield. It's a fast infield and Uribe hit that ball pretty hard and [Desmond] tried to play it on a short hop. No chance. But he's young, hasn't played here much. This is the kind of infield when the ball's hit hard, you don't need to go after it and charge it."
Desmond's 15 errors this season are the 5th highest total E's in the Majors, and he's tied for third in the National League with Ryan Theriot behind only the Padres' Jason Bartlett and Chicago's Starlin Castro. Desmond's +3.3 UZR/150 thus far this season, through 787.1 innings is significantly improved over his -9.4 UZR/150 after he played 1,208.0 innings total last year. Desmond's got things straightened out some defensively, but this year, of course, the offense has fallen apart, until recently at least.
Desmond walked three times in last night's game, the first time in two+ major league seasons he's ever done that. After going 1 for 1 with a single, 3 walks and two runs scored Desmond's got a .246/.328/.316 slash with a .326 BABIP in July, up from .217/.255/.228 and .267 in June. He hasn't hit a HR since April, however, and his .300/.440/.400 slash in seven second-half games still has him at just .228/.276/.314 on the year.
The Nationals' Skipper seemed pleased with what he saw from Desmond last night when he spoke to the press after the game. "I had a conversation with him about a week ago," Johnson said, "He was starting, feeling his oats and said, 'Skip, move me down in the lineup, I'm feeling pretty good.' I said, 'Well, when you get real selective at home plate and your on base percentage comes up...And I gave him that cookie in Houston and hit him second, but he didn't earn it, I just gave it to him."
Desmond's third walk of the night last night in LA put two men on in what was then a 3-2 game. The Nats were holding on against the Dodgers, and when Desmond scored two batters later on Jerry Hairston's grand slam the tension was lifted in what was yet another tightly contested game by the Nationals. "That's our version of a laugher," Johnson said, "Playing a one-run game till the ninth inning then scoring four. That's a laugher for us."
The walk was Desmond's 22nd in 92 games, he walked 28 times in 154 games last season. The defense and patience are showing up for the 25-year-old Nats' infielder. Now what about that pop?