The Washington Nationals had the services of their All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond for the time since July 21 yesterday. Desmond, 26, saw his breakout season interrupted for nearly a month after suffering a strained oblique. The recovery process went quicker than expected, as the Nationals had not projected for his return until the end of the month. He went 0-4 in his first night back in uniform.
The red hot Nationals didn’t miss a beat while Desmond was out, as they entered a stretch of 25 games in which they were victorious in 19 of them. The recent streak has catapulted them to having the best record in all of baseball and they maintain a solid four-game lead over the surging Atlanta Braves, winners of four straight themselves.
While the real strength of the Nationals lies in their talented starting rotation, getting Desmond back in the lineup every day can only help their chances of claiming the NL East. It also allows Danny Espinosa to slide back over to second base and bumps utility-man Steve Lombardozzi back to the bench, giving the roster more overall flexibility. Washington designated the well-traveled Cesar Izturis for assignment to create roster space.
Although Desmond has never been one to get on base (5.1% career walk rate), his speed and developing power have been a huge asset for the Nationals in 2012. He’s contributed 3.5 WAR to the team this season per FanGraphs, and his return is a positive sign for a team that is very likely playoff bound.