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Nationals need Ian Desmond to get back on track

Nationals' skipper Matt Williams was happy that it was Ian Desmond who came through with the go-ahead hit in the series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Were there signs that the 28-year-old infielder is figuring things out in Chase Field?

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[ed. note - "Every Friday morning throughout this season, assuming that they will continue to have us, Federal Baseball will be writing a post over at's Nationals Buzz, "... as part of's season-long initiative of welcoming guest," writers to their site. I substituted the word "writers" for "bloggers" there. All opinions expressed are our own... Our sixth or seventh (we lost count) post of the season follows... You can read the entire post HERE or through the link included below."]:

Ian Desmond is one of three Nationals to play in all 40 games so far this season. Unlike right fielder Jayson Werth (.304/.391/.453) and second/third baseman Anthony Rendon (.282/.312/.479), the other two Nats to play in all 40, the 28-year-old shortstop has struggled at the plate (.226/.275/.368), while committing a major league-leading 10 errors.

"I've got to fight the two guys up the middle. Whenever I say, 'Let me give you a day off,' the response is, 'Are you kidding me? Are we trying to win or what?'" - Davey Johnson on trying to get Ian Desmond/Danny Espinosa to sit, 2012

With the primary backup at short, Danny Espinosa, pressed into everyday action with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, Nats skipper Matt Williams has thus far been unwilling to give the likes of Zach Walters a start at short, preferring to send Desmond out there every day to work through his issues, while occasionally, as he did in the series finale in Arizona, coming through with a big hit that hints an offensive breakout is always one swing away.

Back on April 25, Desmond broke out of an 0-for-15 slump with a 3-for-5 game against the San Diego Padres that left him with a .221/.257/.379 line. Williams was asked the next day about continuing to send Desmond out every day in spite of his struggles.

"He's been struggling a little bit at the plate and last night's first at bat got him back on track," the manager said. "So I wanted to leave him in that game." There were opportunities to double-switch Desmond out in what ended up being an 11-1 win, but with the infielder starting to swing a hot bat, Williams was reluctant.

"An inning off is an inning of," he explained, "but ... I look to this next week, so we've got an off-day Monday, an off-day Thursday, followed by another off-day three days later, so that's going to give them some time to have some rest too." Williams' predecessor on the bench in the nation's capital, Davey Johnson, joked often over the years about the difficulty of convincing Desmond to ever take a day off to rest.

"I've got to fight the two guys up the middle," Johnson told reporters in 2012, when Desmond played 130 games, missing time only when an oblique injury forced him out,  "Whenever I say, 'Let me give you a day off,' the response is, 'Are you kidding me? Are we trying to win or what?' "

• You can read the entire post over at's Nationals Buzz: