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Does weeklong tear mean Desmond is back?

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Does weeklong tear mean Desmond is back?

You wondered it after enjoying a big day at the plate to begin the week and shared an anecdote about a pep talk he received from Cal Ripken. And then you wondered it after he went 5-for-9 in the Nationals' series against the Mets. And then you really wondered it when he homered Thursday night and again Friday night in Pittsburgh, extending this hot streak another couple of days.

You've been fooled before, though, and so you didn't want to go all the way with it and declare Ian Desmond officially back after a wretched 3 1/2 months to start the season.

And then he went and did it again Saturday night, going 2-for-3 with a walk and another home run that punctuated the Nationals' 9-3 victory over the Pirates.

And so now you have no choice but to wonder it: Has Desmond snapped out of it at long last and rediscovered his form of the last three seasons?

First, consider the numbers, because they are really impressive. In six games this week, Desmond is now 10-for-19 with four homers, seven RBI, four walks, a .609 on-base percentage and 1.158 slugging percentage. That's not his OPS. That's his slugging percentage. His OPS is 1.767.

(How remarkable is that? Well, when Bryce Harper won NL Player of the Week honors in May after his ridiculous stretch that included six homers in three days, his OPS was 1.838. Not a huge difference.)

Numbers, of course, can be misleading. Especially when compressed into a small sample over six games. Maybe Desmond has just been lucky this week, leading to his sudden surge.

Which is possible. And it wouldn't be the first time a struggling player got hot for one week, only to cool off again after there.

But there appears to be more to this than mere numbers and luck. It's not just the fact Desmond has suddenly become productive again. It's how he's doing it.

Here are two important trends he has displayed over the last week that offer some evidence this is a sign of continued success...

1. He's being patient at the plate and drawing walks
This has long been one of Desmond's biggest problem areas, and certainly a major problem the majority of the season. In his first 87 games, he drew 17 walks, a paltry 4.8 percent rate that was the worst of his career. But during these six games, he has drawn four walks, a rate of 17.4 percent.

Yes, that an incredibly small sample, but watch Desmond's at-bats and you see a guy finally laying off pitches out of the zone, not giving away at-bats the way he too often has this year. That's an encouraging sign.

2. He's hitting outside pitches to center and right fields
When Desmond is going bad, he has all kinds of trouble keeping his shoulder and hips closed, flying open and leaving himself vulnerable to pitches on the outside corner. Opponents know this, and so they keep feeding him away, away, away, hoping he'll bite.

Well, over the last week, he has been staying on those outside pitches and driving them back up the middle or to the opposite field. In fact, five of his 10 hits during this stretch — and three of his four homers — have been hit to either center or right field. Again, an encouraging sign.

So, is this the turnaround Desmond and the Nationals have been seeking for months? Is this the moment the Nationals' faith in their struggling shortstop pays off?

We can't really say that quite yet. It's still only six games.

But consider this: Over the last six days, Ian Desmond has raised his batting average 18 points, his on-base percentage 22 points, his slugging percentage 45 points. And he has done so with a much better approach at the plate than we've seen in some time.

Beats the alternative, doesn't it?

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Nationals walked off again, this time by Cardinals' Paul DeJong

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Nationals walked off again, this time by Cardinals' Paul DeJong

ST. LOUIS -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez was awake most of the night after Washington lost on a walk-off grand slam Sunday.

He likely won't be catching up on that missed sleep Monday.

Paul DeJong handed the Nationals their second straight walk-off loss, capping a back-and-forth finish with a game-ending solo homer in the ninth inning of the St. Cardinals' 7-6 victory Monday night.

DeJong took Koda Glover (0-1) deep leading off the ninth on a 3-1 pitch. A night earlier, Ryan Madson allowed a game-ending ninth-inning grand slam to the Chicago Cubs' David Bote in a 4-3 defeat.

"I don't sleep most nights, I like to watch replays of the game," Martinez said. "And last night was no different."

Washington's bullpen has blown saves in three of its past four games. All-Star closer Sean Doolittle has been on the disabled list since early July, and top setup man Kelvin Herrera went to the DL with right rotator cuff impingement last week.

"I don't know what else to do," Martinez said of the bullpen.

The usually stoic DeJong wasn't quite sure how to celebrate his first career walk-off homer. He started calm, keeping his head down as he rounded the bases. After coming around third, though, he whipped his helmet into the grass, threw his arms down and bellowed out a roar.

"My first walkoff, it felt so good I had to do something a little different," DeJong said.

The Cardinals recorded their 10th walkoff of the season and DeJong became the sixth different player to end a game in grand fashion.

"They're all special, all emotional," St. Louis interim manager Mike Shildt said. "These guys have the mentality, `Do your job, keep the line moving.' They have a lot of trust with each other."

The Cardinals have won six in a row and moved to nine games over .500 for the first time this season.

DeJong's 380-foot drive ended a wild final two innings.

Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko homered in the eighth inning to put St. Louis up 6-4. Gyorko started the rally with a leadoff drive, and Carpenter followed with a three-run homer off Sammy Solis.

The Nationals tied it at 6 in the top of the ninth on RBI singles by Daniel Murphy and Matt Wieters off closer Bud Norris. Dakota Hudson (3-0) relieved Norris and stranded two baserunners by retiring Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton.

Juan Soto and Bryce Harper homered for the Nationals, who have lost five of seven.

Gyorko sparked St. Louis' big eighth inning with his homer off Justin Miller. Kolten Wong and Patrick Wisdom then singled to set up Carpenter's 33rd homer. Carpenter has homered in seven of his past 10 games. He extended his major-league leading on-base streak to 31 games with a first-inning bunt single. He has 17 homers during that string.

Harper won a 10-pitch battle with starter Miles Mikolas by drilling his 29th homer leading off the fourth to lead 2-1.

Ryan Zimmerman added a run-scoring double in the second for the Nationals.

Jose Martinez had four hits for the Cardinals.

Mikolas gave up four runs on four hits over seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Tommy Milone started for Washington and gave up two runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings.

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After standout performances, Nationals' 1B Ryan Zimmerman named NL Player of the Week

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USA TODAY Sports

After standout performances, Nationals' 1B Ryan Zimmerman named NL Player of the Week

Ryan Zimmerman is on a hot streak for the Washington Nationals, and he was named NL Player of the Week, the league announced Monday.

Quite frankly, this isn't exactly a surprise. 

The Nats' 33-year-old slugger completed a wild week going 10-for-21, finishing with a .476 batting average along with a .538 on-base percentage and slugging at 1.048. 

He particularly stunned in Washington's 9-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, blasting two homers and driving in six runs. The first baseman finished the week with 12 RBI in seven games, along with three total dingers and three doubles.

Zimmerman returned to the Nats' lineup on July 20 off the 60-day disabled list after being out since the beginning of May with an oblique injury. Since his return, in 15 games, he's batted .354 with four home runs and 18 RBI after going onto the list hitting just .217.

Other Nats who have previously won the NL Player of the Week Award this season are Max Scherzer, Mark Reynolds and Adam Eaton.

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