The Washington Nationals ended a five game losing streak with a walk-off home run from Ian Desmond in the bottom of the ninth inning last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the win they remain half a game ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, and are currently owners of the third best record in the National League overall.
Hope seemed gone as the Nats entered the bottom of the ninth against D-Backs closer J.J. Putz. The Nats were down one, the bottom of the order was up, and their offense had been anemic all season long. But leading off the inning was Bryce Harper, who already had two hits on the night, and whose promise has shined during this tedious losing streak. On a hitter's count, he led the inning off with a laser that must have left a bruise on the right-center field wall. With Wilson Ramos and Rick Ankiel recording consecutive outs, it set the stage for a two-out walk-off special from Desmond. Desmond launched the ball into the visitors dugout, giving them the 5-4 victory.
- Edwin Jackson's fastball looked very flat all day. That's a problem when you are a pitcher who in part relies on a good moving fastball to force mistakes in hitters. As a result he was forced to rely on his breaking pitches as out pitches, and his final stat line reflected that. Jackson pitched six innings, allowed eight hits, and gave up four earned runs while only striking out three.
- I'm still a little confused as to why the Nats chose to pinch hit Rick Ankiel in the bottom of the ninth. With Harper on second and one out, the club chose to take out rookie Tyler Moore, who was hitting in the ninth spot, and insert Ankiel. While I understand the righty/lefty match up against J.J. Putz, Ankiel is just three for his last 23 at the plate. He struck out swinging.
- Bryce Harper was the Nationals' best player last night. Hands down. He finished with three hits (infield single and two laser doubles), stopped a run with his arm, and made a great play with his legs when he scored from second on a ground ball to the second baseman. Even leading into this game I felt like Harper should be sent down when the MLB team gets healthy, but the bottom line is Washington just can't afford it. Even with Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Morse back, he's at least their third best hitter.
- If you had told me this spring Steve Lombardozzi would have a shot at stealing Danny Espinosa's starting spot at second base by the end of the year, I would have thought you were nuts. But Lombo has shown not only consistency at the plate, but also great versatility in the field. In fact, one could make the argument that he has filled in at third base almost as well as Zimmerman would have played it himself. He's currently hitting .293/.383/.341, which makes him a perfect No. 2 hitter. I still think Espinosa has by far the better long-term potential, but Lombardozzi is simply outplaying most of the Nats' lineup.