As if it wasn't clear already, the second-inning departure of Yunel Escobar due to injury gave the Nats yet another reminder that if they are to win games these days, they are going to have to do so without the contributions of some of their biggest names.
Escobar exited with a left wrist injury, another scary moment in a season full of them. But afterwards, it was the bottom of their lineup, Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa who stepped up to secure a series victory over the rival New York Mets.
Taylor had two RBI singles to drive in three total runs. Ian Desmond, who batted seventh, scored twice and had two hits and two walks. Eight-hole hitter Matt den Dekker scored the fourth run in their 4-3 win and ended with a single and three walks. Espinosa drove in the go-ahead run.
That is certainly not the way the Nationals drew it up before the season but, hey, they'll take it.
"Opportunity. That's what they're looking for, the opportunity to show us and everybody else what they can do," Matt Williams said. "They've stepped up. It wasn't the plan, for sure, but nonetheless they've contributed and we're at where we're at."
The Nats surely planned to have Desmond be a big contributor this season, but up until lately he hadn't produced much of anything. Now Desmond has reached base in seven out of his last 10 plate appearances.
"That's the key with Desi. If he sees it well, then he lays off the bad pitches and he's able to do stuff like that," Williams said. "Hit balls over the fence, get basehits and walk and cause havoc on the bases as well. I like where he's at right now. He's seeing the ball well."
Taylor brought Desmond home twice, first in the fourth inning and again in the eighth. The second hit also scored den Dekker and tied the game at 3-3.
Afterwards he described his approach to the at-bat against Mets reliever Bobby Parnell.
"I just tried to step out of the box and take my time more than I probably would normally. I'm looking for a certain pitch in that situation, so just have to try to be as patient as possible," Taylor said. "That was a big change in the game."
Taylor has an unusual split this season based on whether runners are on base. With no runners he is hitting .198 (32-for-162). With runners he is batting .389 (21-for-54) with 30 RBI.
"For me, when he gets in those situations he doesn't try to do too much," Williams added. "He's not looking for a three-run homer, he's looking for a basehit."
"It’s heart. I think he wants it more than the next guy. It’s been fun to watch. Hopefully there’s a lot more of it," Desmond said.
Espinosa - another fill-in due to injury - delivered the game-winning hit against Parnell in the next at-bat. He roped a double down the line and into the corner in left field. That scored Taylor from second, after the rookie stole a base following his 2-RBI hit.
The clutch hits from Taylor and Espinosa represented a breakthrough for the Nats on this particular day. Before the eighth inning they were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and had left 10 stranded on-base.
The Nats kept pushing forward and came away with an important victory in the NL East.
"The fact that we had a chance to come back in this game shows that we don't give up," Williams said. "We create opportunities for ourselves and we can come through. If we don't have those  runners, then we can't strand them. That's a good sign for us that we have guys on the basepaths. That's what we want."
"We got a team built on character guys and today was a perfect example of that," Desmond said.