#Wecandothisbat: With his 2 for 3 game last night in PNC Park, Washington Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond gave himself a six-game hit streak and home runs in three straight and four of the six games on his streak, over which the 29-year-old infielder is 10 for 19 with the four HRs, four walks and five Ks in 24 plate appearances.
Of course, the recent run of success has him up to just .222/.270/.369 overall so it's fair to suggest we, as fans, perhaps temper out excitement. There are, however, positive signs from Desmond in recent days, after he struggled through the first half of the 2015 campaign.
Matt Williams, in the Nationals' manager's post-game interview with reporters last night, said that Desmond's final trip to the plate last night, which saw him draw a walk from hard-throwing Pittsburgh righty Arquimedes Caminero, was a good sign that Desmond is seeing the ball much better now than he had been previously.
"The last at bat he had tonight," Williams explained, "he ends up laying off pitches off the plate and draws a walk. And that just tells me that he's seeing it so much better. Yeah, he hit a homer and he also laid down a pretty good sac bunt. He's a team guy. He's doing whatever he can to help us win, but the last at bat tonight is the epitome of this stretch he's been on. He's just seeing it well."
Asked what was different for Desmond recently, Williams again explained that the Nats' infielder is just calmer at the plate and keeping his head still throughout.
"Calmer body," he added. "You name it. And probably a little confidence. He's hit some balls to the middle of the diamond for power. That tells me and everybody else that he's staying on the baseball a little bit better.
"So it's probably a combination of all of that. The struggles that he's had, the track record can speak for itself too, so at some point he's going to see the ball and get hot and drive the baseball and he has in recent days."
MAT w/ RISP: Michael Taylor's two-out RBI single in the fourth was one of two hits for Taylor with runners in scoring position in the Nationals' 9-3 win over the Pirates. He also singled with Matt den Dekker on second in the sixth inning, and den Dekker scored on Anthony Rendon's sac fly.
Those two hits left the Nats' 24-year-old rookie 23 for 57 (.404/.462/.614) with runners in scoring position this season, which is the fifth highest AVG with RISP in the majors and fourth-best in the NL among players with at least 50 PAs with RISP, behind only the Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts (.405), the D-Backs' Paul Goldschmidt (.408), the Rockies' Nolan Arenado (.417) and the Braves' Freddie Freeman (.418).
Taylor also made a few impressive catches in center field in PNC Park last night. Matt Williams mentioned it all in his post-game press conference.
"Really good plays in the outfield," Williams said. "It's difficult early here. The sun is right in his eyes. He's the one out there with sunglasses on for a night game. The first one he went and got at the wall and he ran down another one, and of course he got a fastball that he hit the homer on, but just a nice game. Again, came up clutch for us with a guy in scoring position and two out."
RUMOR MILL: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark weighed in on the rumors involving the Nationals' reported search for an additional bullpen arm in an article on Sunday. A source he quoted in the story told him that "he'd be "shocked" if the Phillies end up dealing their closer [Jonathan Papelbon] to the Nationals." While noting the reports by FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, Stark's sources tell him that, "those talks have gone nowhere":
"... in part because Papelbon would balk at being traded to any team that would want him as a set-up man or co-closer, and in part because the Nationals don't appear to view him as a significant upgrade over current closer Drew Storen. Washington would also likely want the Phillies to pick up much of Papelbon's salary."
Stark does, however, go on to say that, "Clubs that have spoken with the Nationals say they're trying to do 'something big' if they make a move at all." He mentions the rumors that the Nationals have spoken to the Reds and Padres about Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, but adds that, "it's unclear if they can ultimately match up with either team."
The Nationals, Stark writes, "... have told other clubs they have no interest in trading their best pitching prospect, Lucas Giolito, or their highly regarded infield prospects, Trea Turner or Wilmer Difo, in any deal."
Also of note: Stark says that if the Reds do actually trade Chapman, they want, "... want one 'elite' prospect, plus two more he described as 'better than average.'" Three top prospects for Chapman in the last two months-plus of 2015 and 2016 before he is eligible for free agency? Maybe if there's an extension agreed upon beforehand? Otherwise?