After making two errors in three games during the Washington Nationals' season-opening series in D.C. against the Miami Marlins, Ian Desmond made two costly ones this afternoon before later redeeming himself with his bat. The first error today came in the fourth, on a weak grounder toward the mound by Brandon Phillips that the Nats' shortstop fielded cleanly before firing a throw high over Chad Tracy at first and into the home dugout, putting Phillips on second. Cincinnati's second baseman would later score to cut the Nationals' lead in half, at 2-1.
That unearned run was the only one the Reds scored with Ross Detwiler on the mound this afternoon. Desmond's second error came in the bottom of the eighth. Nats' reliever Drew Storen had already allowed three hits and a run when a Devin Mesoraco grounder shot through Desmond's five-hole into left allowing Jay Bruce to score the Reds' third run. The Nationals still led by two, 5-3 after eight, when they turned the ball over to their new closer, Rafael Soriano.
The 33-year-old right-hander left a 2-2 slider inside half a plate away from Wilson Ramos' target for Shin-Soo Choo to clobber, then surrendered a one-out triple by Joey Votto, who scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Soriano with Brandon Phillips at the plate. The game went into extra innings, and into the top of the eleventh before Desmond absolutely crushed a hanging 2-2 slider from J.J. Hoover that landed in the upper deck in left in Great American Ballpark in what was then a 6-5 game. Ramos then hit his second home run to give the Nats a two-run cushion before Craig Stammen closed it out in the bottom of the 11th.
• Harper's 2-Run Blast:
Desmond's 1 for 5 day at the plate left him 3 for 19 with a double, a home run, a walk and six Ks in five games in which he's now committed four errors, a year after committing 15 overall in 128 games. That was, of course, down from 23 errors in 152 games in 2011 and 34 in 149 in 2010. "He's very gifted," Davey Johnson told reporters after this afternoon's win, "But he gets wired and he's been kind of anxious to make things happen and sometimes that works against you, you just have to back up a little bit, but he has a tremendous competitive spirit."
As for the Nats' shortstop finally making things happen and winning the game, the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said it was just what Desmond needed. "Yeah, I think it was perfect," Johnson said, "maybe that's what will calm him down. It calmed me down."
When Devin Mesoraco's grounder in the eighth got by Desmond and rolled into left, there were runners first and second, so Bryce Harper came up throwing, and sailed one high over home to the backstop on what could have been a close play at the plate. Jay Bruce scored on the error by Harper, and both runners on the basepaths advanced into scoring position. Drew Storen struck Xavier Paul out to end the threat there, but the Reds were within two.
Johnson said there was no excuse for Harper's throw. "He can't control his emotions," Davey Johnson said of the 20-year-old, second-year pro. "He wants to just airmail it all the way. And he's got to learn, he's going to have to learn." Asked how they would get the message across to the 2010 no.1 overall pick, Johnson said Harper knows what he should do. "He understands it. He just can't control his emotions. He's a smart player, but he gets wound up in the moment. If he keeps the ball down there he throws [Bruce] out."
Harper, of course, also hit the a two-run home run off Mike Leake in the second which provided all the offense the Nationals needed through seven. The Nats' left fielder's 2 for 5 day at the plate left him 8 for 21 with a double and three home runs in five games. Also homering in the win were Jayson Werth (2 HRs this season) who hit a first pitch fastball from Reds' reliever Sam LeCure out to right-center field, toward the PNC Power Stacks where a fan holding a child made a nice barehand grab. No really. Watch it below:
• Werth's Solo Blast:
After Werth's 434 ft, 3-run home run in Thursday's 6-1 win over the Marlins, Johnson talked about Werth's power returning close to a year after the outfielder broke his wrist on a sliding play in the outfield in Nationals Park. "He told me, I guess it was batting practice on the off day," Johnson said, "that he said his wrist was feeling stronger, felt like he was feeling good about it and then he got into a little kind of a funk out there, but he had such a great Spring, his stroke was so good all Spring, and a lot of guys are that way now. They're kind of -- cold weather, trying to do a little too much, expanding, but I know he feels good about it. I've liked what I saw all Spring. I would never have noticed that his wrist was bothering him the way he was taking BP and all." Werth's now 5 for 21 with a double and two home runs in five games. Rough estimate of today's blast? 425 ft?
The other two of the five home runs the Nationals hit came off Wilson Ramos' bat. Mike Leake left a curve up for the Nats' catcher. Ramos hit one over the Value City Furniture sign in left-center for a two-run blast that made it 4-1 in the sixth. The second home run in the 11th landed on the netting above the left-center bullpen, above the Cincinnati Bell Directory sign some 420 ft+ from home. It was the second of the game and year for the backstop who injured his knee in Great American Ballpark last season and worked his way back to full-strength in under a year. In three starts so far, the 25-year-old catcher is 4 for 9 with three home runs and three walks.
"[Ramos has] been great ever since day one of Spring Training," Johnson said. "He's swinging the bat great, catching great, doing everything great." Will the Nats' manager continue to stick with the 50/50 split behind the plate as the season goes on? Will it be Kurt Suzuki behind the plate on Sunday catching Strasburg? Will Ramos reestablish himself as the undisputed no.1?