Before Game 3 of the National League Division Series, Ian Desmond got to speak to Frank Robinson, the ex-Washington manager who was set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
In their conversation, Robinson didn't offer Desmond any advice, and the Washington Nationals' All-Star shortstop — who wears No. 20 in Robinson's honor — didn't need it. While many of his teammates struggled at the plate in an 8-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Desmond brought his bat, going 3 for 4 as one of the few bright spots.
"Desi's a big-game player. That's been evident all year," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "He's got the mentality and just the wherewithal to be that type of guy."
It's not Desmond's fault that he came up clutch in a big game as others failed to do so. He never came up with runners in scoring position while teammates went 0 for 8 in those spots, and he was stranded every time he got on.
"To get shut out is never fun," Desmond said. "To win, you've got to have timely hits, and we didn't do that today."
Desmond singled twice and doubled Wednesday as one of the few Washington hitters who enjoyed some success against St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter.
"I'm just trying to go up there and let the game happen," Desmond said. "I'm not putting too much pressure on myself, just kind of sticking with what I've been doing all year long."
He was a .292 hitter all year long to go along with 72 runs scored. He crossed the plate in Games 1 and 2, too.
In this series, Desmond is 7 for 12 (.583).
"It's just seeing the ball and hitting the ball. That's pretty much it," he said. "It's not science. Just go up there, and if you see one you like, swing at it."
But as much as Desmond tried to shrug off the praise, it was hard to deny he was one of the few players Wednesday who produced in a charged environment that featured the largest crowd in Nationals Park history.
That he managed to never lose his cool at the plate or in the field came as no surprise to his teammates. They know some fans are seeing Desmond for the first time in the MLB postseason, but they know he was producing well before October.
"He's one of the best players in the game. That's been kind of transitioning," infielder Mark DeRosa said. "I'm happy he's capitalizing on the big stage, kind of letting the world know who he is and what he's about. We've seen it all year."
It was only fitting that Robinson was there Wednesday to see it, too. Desmond's afternoon ended with plenty of talk about the Nationals being on the brink of elimination, but it started with him catching Robinson's first pitch.
"To be able to see him and do that and hear the ovation that he got was pretty special," Desmond said. "[It's] something I'll remember for a long time."
Because of the drubbing the Cardinals put on the Nationals, Desmond likely won't remember his Game 3 performance fondly. But praise from Robinson should go a long way beyond this series and season, happy to have his No. 20 on Desmond's back.
"He's worn it well," Robinson said.
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