In a season in which he’s reached so many of them already, Ian Desmond hit another milestone Monday afternoon when he took off for second base in the fifth inning and slid in safely with his 20th stolen base of the season.
Desmond, who has already hit 24 home runs this season despite missing at least four weeks with an oblique injury and a few more days here and there with a hamstring strain, became the Nationals’ first 20-20 player since Alfonso Soriano hit 46 home runs and stole 41 bases in 2006.
With his batting average sitting at .299 on Sept. 24, and adding in his 32 doubles and 71 RBI, Desmond’s stellar 2012 season just continued to roll on with the honor.
“I think he’s just had a phenomenal year,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “He’s just establishing a benchmark for himself and what he’s capable of doing. He’s still in the learning process.”
Desmond said he never set becoming a 20-20 player as a goal, and he brushed off the accomplishment as a nice honor but said it was nicer that the Nationals won Monday’s game — which dropped their magic number to clinch the division to five.
But entering Monday’s games there were only six 20-20 players in the major leagues, with Desmond joining Jason Heyward and Andrew McCutchen in a group of players who’d cleared 20 home runs but sat at 19 steals and were knocking on the door.
Heyward and the Braves were idle on Monday and McCutchen’s Pirates were playing the Mets Monday night.
So Desmond left them behind and joined a new group. One headlined by Angels phenom Mike Trout but also includes B.J. Upton, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Braun, Alex Rios and Carlos Gonzalez.
Johnson often compares Desmond to another shortstop who worked under his tutelage in Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and count the manager among those who feel Desmond’s breakout season could be just the start for the All-Star shortstop. But Desmond admits Johnson’s confidence in him has been a big part of the way he’s played.
“When Davey came in in spring training and was like, ‘Hey, you’re going to play every single day and I don’t care what you do, you’re out there. You’re my shortstop no matter what.’ That was, to me, like a multi-year contract,” Desmond said.
“That was all I needed to, someone’s word, to say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy.’ The audition kind of went away and now it became just go out and play your game.”