Ian Desmond finished a triple shy of the cycle against the Cubs on Friday night.(Image: Brad Mills, USA Today)

Desmond Picks Up the Slack in Nats’ 5th Straight Win


It would be folly for a baseball fan to assume their team could possibly make it through a full season injury-free — the truth is every team gets banged up at some point during the long 162-game season, and the team’s success hinges in large part on how many injuries you sustain, and who steps up for you when those injuries occur. Friday night, with both Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper unavailable to the Washington Nationals, it was Ian Desmond who provided the spark.

Desmond had three hits, scored three times and hit a tie-breaking homer in the fourth inning to lead the Nationals to a 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game series at Nationals Park.

The way the rest of the lineup compensated for the lack of two-thirds of the starting outfield made Desmond a little nostalgic.

“Last year, we were missing guys throughout the whole season, pretty much,” Desmond said to the Associated Press after the game, referring, of course, to Washington’s 98-win division title season in 2012. “We just found a way.”

On Friday, the way included Desmond’s contributions, along with RBI doubles by Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki, complemented by nice pitching by both Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen.

Suzuki was the first to start the party, crashing a two-run double off the fence in right-center in the second inning, turning an early 1-0 Cubs lead into a 2-1 Nationals advantage. Suzuki also made the highlight reel with his glove in the next half-inning. After back-to-back double by Jeff Samardzija and Starlin Castro knotted the game at 2-2, a single by Anthony Rizzo looked to give the Cubs the lead. But Roger Bernadina, in right field thanks to the aforementioned injuries, let loose a good throw home. Suzuki dove back to just nab the sliding Castro at the plate, denying Chicago the go-ahead run.

It stayed 2-2 until the fourth, when Desmond broke the tie with his fifth homer of the year, and one inning later it was Desmond again, this time with a double off Samardzija that scored Ryan Zimmerman for a 5-2 Nationals lead. When Danny Espinosa followed with a two-run double of his own, it appeared to be all Detwiler would need.

Plagued by a lack of run support, Detwiler came into the game with just one win to his name, but the Nationals outburst on Friday was more than enough to support the lefty, who somehow battled through surrendering six doubles in 6.2 innings while only giving up two runs. Craig Stammen came in to relieve Detwiler in the seventh and went the rest of the way, picking up some work for himself while simultaneously giving his bullpen mates a much appreciated night off.

Speaking of nights off, there were divergent diagnoses for the Nationals missing outfielders. Werth, who hasn’t played since May 2, appears headed for the disabled list to rest a slight strain in his hamstring. The Nationals are expected to call up outfielder Eury Perez from Syracuse to fill the roster spot, which shouldn’t be open for long, as Werth should be back as soon as he is eligible to come off.

Harper, meanwhile, had been playing the last couple of games with an ingrown toenail that eventually became infected and needed a procedure to rectify — if you’re interested, check Harper’s Twitter feed for a splendid color photo of the carnage. The 20-year-old should be back in the lineup on Saturday however, when the Nationals will send Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.45 ERA) to the hill in search of his first win since Opening Day. Opposing him will be Edwin Jackson (0-5, 6.39) for the Cubs, returning to Nats Park after spending 2012 with Washington.

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