Standing in the Nationals’ clubhouse after a 3-2 extra-innings win over the Miami Marlins, shortstop Ian Desmond wore a shirt that read “Better Every Day.”
It’s hard to imagine a better day for Desmond, whose sacrifice fly to centerfield gave the Nationals a 10th-inning victory – Washington’s sixth win in eight one-run games.
After Wilson Ramos led off the 10th with a single, Adam LaRoche bounced a soft grounder to Gabby Sanchez at first base for what could have been a double play. Instead, Sanchez tossed the ball over shortstop Jose Reyes’ head to put Ramos at third.
“I had a pretty good idea that it was going to be deep enough,” Desmond said of his sacrifice fly. “[Emilio] Bonifacio is a pretty good outfielder, and he’s got a strong arm. So once I saw the throw go a little bit wide, I started celebrating.”
The Nationals (12-4) came flying out of the dugout, drenching Desmond with a bucket of red Gatorade before piling on top of the 26-year-old.
“[It was] cold,” Desmond said of the bath. “Got my heart pounding.”
But his heart was surely pounding, or perhaps even skipped a beat, just an inning earlier.
With a 2-0 Nats lead in the bottom of the ninth, reliever Brad Lidge hit Hanley Ramirez with a pitch after jumping ahead with two quick strikes. The next batter, Logan Morrison, then drove the ball deep into the right-field bleachers to tie the game.
“I still like Brad Lidge,” Davey Johnson said of the reliever who has been serving as interim closer along with Henry Rodriguez while Drew Storen rehabs from elbow surgery. “I didn’t as much mind the home run, but getting ahead of Ramirez and then [hitting] him. That was the mistake of the inning.”
The mistake also cost Stephen Strasburg the win.
The headliner of a stingy pitching staff – collectively it has a 2.34 ERA – Strasburg threw six scoreless inning. He struck out six, walked one and allowed four hits to lower his ERA to 1.08.
The 23-year-old said he is beginning to regain command of his curveball, which buckled the knees of Gaby Sanchez and Greg Dobbs, among others.
“I think a light bulb went off in that outing [against the Mets],” said Strasburg, who missed much of last season with Tommy John surgery. “There are a few key things that I used to do before I got hurt, and it’s starting to come back to me.”
His counterpart, Anibal Sanchez, kept pace (seven innings, two runs, eight strikeouts) with Washington’s ace, save for two mistakes that resulted in homers from Jayson Werth and Desmond. And Tom Gorzelanny picked up the win, rebounding from a six-run two-inning appearance on Thursday with a perfect 10th.
“Everyone’s hungry,” Desmond said. “I’ve said it before: There’s a bunch of guys in here that are trying to prove that either they can still play in the big leagues or they belong in the big leagues.”