Ian Desmond's sac fly in the bottom of the eleventh inning won it for the Washington Nationals, but there was plenty of drama in the lead-up to his walk-off winner in the home half of the inning. Bryce Harper hit a one-out double off Atlanta Braves' lefty Dana Eveland, sending a screamer to right-center field, but he pulled up short at second, limping into the bag noticeably enough that both Nats' skipper Matt Wiliams and team trainer Lee Kuntz came out to have a talk with him.
Harper's recent hamstring issue was on everyone's mind as the trio talked at second base, but Harper convinced his manager that he was okay to stay in the game.
What did Harper tell Williams and Kuntz?
"Just that it was a cramp when he went into second," Williams told reporters after the win. "So standing there it got a little better. He told me he could score if there was a base hit, so it subsided a little bit. We'll see how it acts when he gets up in the morning. But, doc will take a look at it and trainers will take a look at it when we get back in there and see what we've got."
Harper stayed at second. Eveland walked Wilson Ramos intentionally to get a lefty vs lefty matchup with Clint Robinson and the Nationals' first baseman worked an unintentional walk out of the Braves' reliever to put the winning run 90ft from home with Desmond due up.
"We don't know the status of Harper at that point, really," Williams said, "and we're down to the last guys. If we pinch hit there then we have nobody left. Clint just put a nice at bat [together]. Didn't chase out of the zone, was able to work a walk there to set Desmond up. Really nice at bat."
Then it was Desmond's turn to play hero.
He stepped in against a new pitcher, right-hander David Aardsma and jumped on the first pitch, sending a fly ball to deep left field to bring Harper in for the walk-off winner.
A bucket of Gatorade and a bottle of chocolate syrup later, Desmond and his team left the field with their fifth straight win.
For the struggling Desmond, it was a big moment.
"He stayed on a slider away," Williams said. "It was up but that ball is away and he just stayed through it enough to drive it to the outfield. Good at bat for him. He's faced Aardsma, so he understands what he may do to try to get him out, but he got a ball up in the zone and delivered for us."
After Williams decided to rest the Nationals' shortstop recently, giving Danny Espinosa starts at short as Desmond's rough first-half has dragged on, it was a welcome celebratory moment for the 29-year-old veteran.
"It's been a while since he felt like he contributed," Williams said.
"So tonight he did that in a big way. So that will help. It helps relax. It helps calm. It helps see the ball. All of those things. So it was a good at bat by him, nice to see him come through for us there."