A half-inning after the Washington Nationals fell behind 2-1 in last night's series opener with the Colorado Rockies, the Nats' threatened to come right back. Anthony Rendon singled off Rockies' lefty Yohan Flande to start the home-half of the frame and Jayson Werth walked to put two on with no one out. Flande struck Adam LaRoche out in the pitcher's final at bat of the game, and right-hander Rob Scahill came on to face Ryan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was 2 for 2 with a double and a run scored at that point, having hit a two-out two-base knock in the fourth before scoring on an RBI single to center by Bryce Harper that accounted for the Nationals' only run to that point.
Scahill tried to throw a 2-1 fastball by Zimmerman knee high inside but the Nats' third baseman yanked it to left for his second double of the night, driving Rendon in from second for the game-tying run and sending Werth around to third with Harper due up.
The Rockies were faced with a tough decision. Pitch to Harper? Or put him on and work to Ian Desmond with the bases loaded? Harper got the intentionals, and Desmond, who was 4 for 4 with a double, a home run and 10 RBIs with the bases loaded and one out this season and 6 for 6 with the bases loaded overall on the year, stepped to the plate. One pitch later, Desmond was 5 for 5 with the bases loaded and one out and 7 for 7 with the bases loaded overall in 2014.
Desmond lined to left on a hanging curve, connecting for double no.12 of 2014 and clearing the bases to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead in what ended up a 7-3 win.
"That's the kind of decision-making and pressure we want to apply," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the game in which he finally got to put the lineup he planned on fielding every day out on the field for the first time since Opening Day.
"Bryce is a very good hitter," he said. "He'd come through earlier in the game against the lefty for a base hit and an RBI. Those are the decisions you have to make in that regard. It takes [Desmond] making a good swing, putting a good swing on it. When it works like that it's great for us and with that length in the lineup then we have the opportunity to do that sometimes."
Desmond was demonstrative in his celebration at second, clapping his hands and gesturing toward the Nats' bench. He then stole third and scored on a grounder to second off Wilson Ramos' bat.
Williams was asked about his shortstop coming through and his success with the bases loaded.
"Well, it was a first-pitch curveball," the first-year manager said. "It wasn't like it was a first-pitch heater in there. But he was patient enough to get a ball up in the zone. The at bat before he swung at some balls down out of the zone. So, first pitch curveball, he laid it in there to get it over for a strike and when he hits a strike it's pretty special. So, it was a good night for him."
After his 2 for 4, 3 RBI night at the plate, the Nationals' 28-year-old infielder was left with a .235/.288/.419 line, 12 doubles and 14 HRs in 81 games and 340 plate appearances on the year.
Did Desmond's display of emotion at second surprise his skipper?
"It's a big moment for us," Williams said. "It's a big hit for us. The fact that he took advantage and then stole third base and then scored on an infield-in ground ball. I'm more impressed with that than the hit and the three RBIs.
"I'm impressed that he had presence of mind on a contact play to make sure that he was down there far enough on a ball that most guys don't score on. He scored. And so that's playing the game, that's the way he can play it, it's impressive."
A career .257/.300/.428 hitter in the first-half, Desmond's getting close to the second half of the season, where he traditionally takes off.
In six MLB seasons, the Montreal Expos' '04 3rd Round pick has put up a .288/.337/.433 line in the second half.