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Desmond in depth on his struggles, getting days off

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Desmond in depth on his struggles, getting days off

Stuck in a month-long slump, shortstop Ian Desmond was given Friday night off by the Nationals' coaching staff with the intention of giving him some rest, both physically and mentally. He was also out of the lineup initially on Saturday before Yunel Escobar was a late scratch due to a stomach bug.

Desmond is not used to sitting out when healthy. He led the Nats in games played in 2013 and 2014, and finished second on the team in 2010 and 2011.

But Desmond is batting just .222/.266/.341 through 69 games this year and has only 10 hits in his last 78 at-bats (.128) going back to May 30. He has three consecutive Silver Sluggers to point to, but it's not early anymore with the season's midway point quickly approaching.

"I mean, I'm hitting .220. It's pretty hard to just sit back and just trust that everything's gonna be fine. But I do believe I'm gonna be fine, and I believe my swing's gonna show up and everything's gonna be alright."

Though the Nats gave Desmond a day off, he didn't exactly take it off.

"Of course not," manager Matt Williams said. "He came out for early grounders [Friday] with the middle infielders and then took more during batting practice and took his regular BP. You can’t tell him no, because they’re grown men. They can do what they want."

Desmond understands what the Nationals are prescribing for him, that a little time off could help him in the long run. But he's tied to his routine and some habits are just hard to break.

"I'm a worker, man. I come here every day, try to keep it as much blue collar as I can, and if you're not performing, you gotta get better. So yeah, I mean I rested, but at the same time, I'm still trying to sharpen the tools," he said.

Desmond said he has no plans to overhaul his swing, as it did win him those three Silver Sluggers. He may, however, make minor tweaks with the help of hitting coach Rick Schu.

"I'm married to my swing, it's not gonna change. My swing is my swing. I'll make small adjustments, but five, ten years ago I would've overhauled my swing. Those are the mistakes I made back then. I'm not gonna venture down that road again. I believe in what I've done," he said.

Desmond has been in the majors for seven years, but didn't hit his stride until 2012, his fourth season. He made his debut after spending more than five years in the minor leagues as a prospect. He is 29 years old and has seen steep highs and lows.

"I have a long history of failures and successes. Going back to my first year in pro ball. I grinded my way here, and I'll grind my way back. Simple as that. I believe in myself. I don't need anything or anybody to tell me what I'm capable of. I know what I'm capable of. I'll get it back," he said.

Williams may give Desmond more rest in the coming weeks if his struggles continue. He wants to get his usually-reliable shortstop back on track no matter what it takes.

"It’s important for him to get back to where he wants to be, and if a couple of days off does that then at the end of the year, maybe he’ll look back and say that was good," he explained. "It’s never easy to take him out of the lineup but for the long-term health of our team and his season and his mentality, I think it’s important. It’s never easy, but a couple of day I think will be good for him."

Desmond insisted he is not worried about anything in the big picture. This is supposed to be a temporary experiment and he is willing to try anything to solve his issues.

"I don't care. I'm here for the Washington Nationals and I wanna win games. As long as we're winning, I'm fine," he said.

 

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MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

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USA Today Sports

MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

A sea of red and white Nationals jerseys flooded toward the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. But there wasn’t a Bryce Harper signing. And there wasn’t even a game. The Nationals are in New York to play the Mets. 

Then, as I turned and walked down the street I began to see random jerseys: Phillies, Yankees, Astros and Mets, among others.

It all clicked.

Ah, yes, the MLB All-Star weekend and its annual FanFest

As I walked inside the building and looked around, there was everything from memorabilia to interactive games like a speed gun, home run derby and more. 

MLB fans filled the building and the once-sea of red and white thinned out into a blob of colors. Fans from all different teams came out for the weekend’s festivities.

This left me curious: Could I find a jersey for every MLB team?

It was easy to find the big name teams. Going down the escalator, I was hit with a couple Jacob deGrom jerseys and a Carlos Correa one, as well. 

Mets, check. Astros, check.

A right turn and there was an Aaron Nola jersey, the All-Star phenom who surprised this year for the first-place Phillies. Check.

The Yankees and Red Sox weren’t far behind. 

As the day went on, my notepad of teams kept getting crossed off. The National League Central was the first division to go, and the American League Central followed suit. Surprisngly, it took me a couple hours — of course, I wasn't searching the whole time — to find the Marlins. Every other NL East team was easy.

Three hours later, I had found all but five teams: Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels. 

I decided to take another lap before I left. And standing, right by the stolen base activity, stood a man in a Randy Johnson throwback Diamondbacks jersey. 

We both look at the kids running down the line toward the base before a purple jersey caught my eye. It was another kid, waiting in line, wearing a Nolan Arenado jersey.

That left me with just three more teams. As I headed toward the exit, I was shocked I had not seen a Mike Trout jersey. One of the greatest players in modern baseball and not one Angels fan.

Then a co-worker pointed toward the MLB shop area. Finally, a Trout jersey. And then I turned around to grab my backpack and notebook. Another Trout jersey. Weird. I crossed off the name and looked up. Another Angels jersey. OK, enough. 

With just two more jerseys left and me being the stubborn person I am, I walked around the FanFest for another 20 minutes, looking for that green A’s jersey, or dark blue Rays one. 

Then, I finally found Stomper, the Athletics mascot taking photos with kids. On him was an A’s jersey — ironic, right? 

After about 10 more minutes I gave up. There were no Rays jerseys. The best I could do was a Tampa Bay tank top a woman was wearing while her kids played. But, that doesn’t count. We’re looking for jerseys.

Oh, and here are other sports apparel that I saw before that non-existent Rays jersey.

  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan t-shirt
  • San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo jersey 
  • A Texas Longhorns athletic shirt
  • France soccer jersey
  • Philadelphia 76ers shirt
  • Montreal Expos Vlad Guerrero jersey
  • Oakland Raiders Bo Jackson jersey
  • Golden State Warriors Steph Curry jersey
  • DC United Wayne Rooney jersey

And so, the search for a Rays jersey continues. 

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Nats fall below .500 again with Saturday's loss to Mets

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats fall below .500 again with Saturday's loss to Mets

Zack Wheeler won for the first time since April 29, Michael Conforto homered and the New York Mets defeated the Washington Nationals, 7-4 on Saturday.

Wilmer Flores, Jose Reyes and Kevin Plawecki each had two hits as the light-hitting Mets scored seven runs for the first time since June 24. New York came into the game last in the National League in batting average and was tied with San Diego for the third-fewest runs scored in the majors.

Wheeler (3-6) was brilliant for seven innings before tiring in the eighth in his longest outing since June 19, 2014. He struck out seven and allowed just one hit through the first five innings. The 28-year old right-hander opened the season with a victory against Miami on April 11 and then defeated the Padres two weeks later. The victory snapped a 13-start winless streak and was Wheeler's first victory at Citi Field this season, despite allowing just 10 earned runs over his last 37 2-3 innings at home.

New York roughed up Austin Voth (0-1), who was making his major league debut. After a quiet first inning that included the 26-year old right-hander striking out Mets leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo on three pitches, Voth ran into immediate trouble in the second. Flores singled to lead off the frame and moved to second on a Plawecki single. Voth was unable to help his own cause, pausing for too long after fielding Jose Reyes' chopper to throw out the still speedy infielder. Amed Rosario remained hot, singling through the right side to score Flores with the first run of the game.

Wheeler lofted a sacrifice fly and Nimmo drove in a run with a groundout to give New York a three-run lead.

The Mets reached Voth for four in the fifth, three coming on Conforto's first home run since June 26. Voth, who did not pitch in his two prior stints with Washington allowed all seven runs and struck out three. He was the fourth starting pitcher to make his major league against the Mets, but was the first to suffer a loss.

Brandishing a fastball that touched 97 and an assortment of breaking pitches, Wheeler was able to keep Washington off-balance until the Nationals finally broke through on Bryce Harper's RBI single in the sixth. New York manager Mickey Callaway left Wheeler in the game to face Harper again with a runner on in the eighth, and the right-hander struck out the slumping Harper on seven pitches. Harper finished 1 for 4 and has just two multi-hit games since June 9. The All-Star outfielder had a pre-game meeting with manager Dave Martinez after Harper failed to run out a fifth-inning ground ball Friday.

After finding success against Harper, Wheeler wasn't as lucky against Matt Adams. Adams lofted a fly ball to right field that appeared to carom off a fan's hands and was played by Jose Bautista, who immediately pointed in the fan's direction. The play was ruled a home run and after a crew chief review, remained a home run, ending Wheeler's day.

Jeurys Familia pitched a perfect for his 17th save in 21 chances.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled for a rehab start Sunday for Single-A Potomac. Manager Dave Martinez indicated he hoped Strasburg would throw between 80 and 85 pitches. Strasburg would be in position to start Washington's first game after the All-Star break versus Atlanta . Catcher Matt Wieters was given the day off after playing in three straight games. He was activated from the disabled list on July 9 after missing two months after surgery on his left hamstring.

Mets: Infielder T.J. Rivera (Tommy John surgery) was removed after five innings from a rehab game with Triple-A Las Vegas Friday with discomfort in his right arm. He is scheduled to undergo further testing . OF Yoenis Cespedes (strained right hip flexor) is ready to progress to something "a little more strenuous", although Callaway did not indicate what Cespedes' next would be. The Mets will play three games against the New York Yankees after the All-Star break and Callaway left open the possibility that the ailing outfielder could serve as the Mets' designated hitter for the series. Callaway did note that Cespedes would return as New York's left fielder, ending any speculation of a potential position change for the 32-year old.

UP NEXT

RHP Jeremy Hellickson (3-1, 3.47 ERA) takes to the mound for Washington in the final game before the All-Star break. Hellickson spun five scoreless frames against Pittsburgh on July 10. He has reached the sixth inning just once in 12 starts and has yet to reach 100 pitches. He'll be opposed by New York's Corey Oswalt (0-2, 6.75 ERA).

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