- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2011

Leadoff hitter Ian Desmond saw three pitches Monday before crushing a 1-2 offering from Los Angeles Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda deep into the seats above the visitors bullpen in left field. He was greeted in the Washington Nationals’ dugout with high fives and back slaps all around.

And that was only the beginning.

The Nationals let loose in the first inning with three home runs before their sixth batter had stepped to the plate. In a 7-2 thumping of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington hit four homers and three doubles on a 12-hit afternoon.

Michael Morse belted two home runs, the first coming on the front end of back-to-back shots with Jayson Werth. Rick Ankiel and Wilson Ramos added two-hit games.

“These guys put on a show today,” said Nationals left-hander John Lannan (9-11), who allowed one earned run in 5 1/3 innings.

And start it all was Desmond, the shortstop who has struggled much of the season. He’s hitting .301 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage since Aug.17 - the day manager Davey Johnson moved him back into the leadoff spot.

“All I know,” Desmond said with a smile, “Is I hit the farthest home run of everybody today.”

“We got off to a good start when Desi hit that hanging slider nine miles,” Johnson said. “That kind of lit the match.”

By the time Danny Espinosa, hitting sixth, came to the plate, the Nationals (65-74) were aflame. Nothing Kuroda threw had worked. Desmond hit an 83-mph slider, Morse turned on an inside 2-2 sinker for his first home run of the day and Werth crushed Kuroda when he returned to the slider.

“It’s everybody from top to bottom,” Desmond said. “It’s like a wheel. Before we were kind of lopsided and now we’re rolling a little bit better.”

In the past three weeks, Desmond has looked much more like the hitter the Nationals saw in 2010 and the guy who burst onto the scene in 2009 with a home run and a double in his major league debut.

“I never really worry about his hitting,” Werth said. “I was here his first day in the big leagues when, if the wind was blowing the other direction, he would have had four homers. As he goes on, he’s going to be a quality big-league hitter.”

There was another player who has proved on a near-daily basis that he can fall into that same category. Morse was the one whose power never failed. In the past 151 games, dating to last season, Morse has racked up 580 plate appearances and 522 at-bats.

He’s hit 31 home runs, compiled a .307 batting average, .369 on-base percentage and .554 slugging percentage. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) is .923.

“It’s real,” Johnson said. “He knows what he’s trying to do. He knows his approach. He knows how they’re trying to pitch him. He’s got tremendous power the other way, and obviously they’re going to try to pound him in. He knows how to get at it.

“[On the first home run], the whole ball was probably just off the inside part of the plate, but he crushed it…. He knows he can hit the ball the other way, and he’s making adjustments in. To me it’s real.”



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