Desmond in elite company

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Desmond in elite company

In this age of deflated power numbers and de-emphasized baserunning, it's no small feat when a major leaguer pulls off a 20-20 combo in a single season: 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases.

So Ian Desmond should feel quite proud of himself this morning as the newest member of the 20-20 club, one that features only seven current members: Desmond, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, B.J. Upton, Alex Rios, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Gonzalez.

Desmond is only the second Nationals player ever to pull off the 20-20 combo, the bar having previously been set ridiculously high by Alfonso Soriano, who in 2006 hit 46 homers and stole 41 bases.

This from a guy who entered the season with perhaps as much pressure on him as anybody on the Nationals roster, a guy who had never hit more than 10 homers or posted a batting average greater than .269 in a full big-league season.

"I think he's just had a phenomenal year," manager Davey Johnson said after yesterday's game. "He's just establishing a benchmark for himself and what he's capable of doing."

As impressive as Desmond's 20-20 combo is, let's take this a step further and point out the incredibly rare feat he might just pull off: finishing with a .300 batting average while homering 20 times and stealing 20 bases.

Desmond's average stood at .301 entering yesterday's game, but an 0-for-3 performance against the Brewers dropped that mark to .299. With nine games left in the regular season, he still has a golden opportunity to raise that number back over .300.

And if he does, Desmond will join what might be one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball history: shortstops who have hit .300 with 20 homers and 20 steals.

How many have ever done it? Only six, and their names read like a list of the greatest shortstops of the modern era: Hanley Ramirez (four times), Alex Rodriguez (twice), Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell.

With a strong finish, Ian Desmond could stand alongside those greats.

Not that he would make a big deal out of it. Desmond is loathe to discuss his personal achievements, especially when it comes to stats. He downplayed the significance of his first career All-Star selection earlier this summer, insisting he'd much rather play in the World Series.

But the 27-year-old does give credit to those who made his breakthrough season possible, starting with his manager.

"Davey has been real nice to have around for me personally," Desmond said. "He's believed in me. I've kind of put the comparison on it: When Davey came in in spring training and was like: 'Hey, you're going to play every single day and I don't care what you do. You're out there. You're my shortstop no matter what.' That was, to me, like a multi-year contract. That was all I needed, someone's word, to say: 'Hey, you're the guy.' The audition kind of went away and now it became just go out and play your game. You can do whatever you want, and he believes in you."

The way Desmond has played this season, there may never be another manager, coach or scout in baseball that doubts his ability.

CSNwashington.com's Chase Hughes contributed to this report.

Papelbon's blown save snaps Nats' win streak against Royals

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Papelbon's blown save snaps Nats' win streak against Royals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-6 walkoff loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium: 

How it happened: The Nationals were on the brink of their fifth straight win when Jonathan Papelbon took the mound Tuesday night, but waiting for him was the middle of the Royals' order in a lineup that can grind out at-bats and make their own luck as well as any team in baseball. They got to Papelbon and they did it their way: a soft infield single to beat a shift, a stolen base by a pinch-runner and two RBI singles to finish the job. The Royals didn't need a single extrabase hit to erase a two-run deficit and steal a win from the Nationals.

Mike Moustakas tied the game with his RBI single in the bottom of the ninth and Lorenzo Cain ended it on a walkoff line drive to center field, as the Nationals fell to 18-8 on the season. Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Chris Heisey homered, Wilson Ramos returned with three hits and Tanner Roark made it 7 1/3 innings. But it wasn't enough with Papelbon's second blown save of the season.

What it means: The Nationals have to still feel great about their road trip so far despite Tuesday's loss, but the Papelbon failure in the ninth has to be concerning. It was his second blown save this season in 11 attempts. That puts him on a troubling pace.

Papelbon's drop-off: Speaking of Papelbon. He now sports a 4.50 ERA on the season after allowing three runs on five hits on Tuesday. It was a tough night for the Nats' closer, who has blown four saves now in 35 outings since getting traded to Washington last July.

Ramos picks up where he left off: Ramos hadn't played since April 24 due to the death of his grandfather, but he had quite the return on Tuesday night. Ramos had three hits including two doubles, the first to score a run in the sixth inning. It was Ramos' sixth multi-hit game this season and his first since April 15. The Buffalo is now batting .344 through 16 games.

Rendon finally gets a homer: One of the biggest surprises this season so far for the Nationals has been the lack of power numbers for Rendon, who two years ago was one of the best players in the NL. He entered Tuesday night slugging just .290 and had yet to hit a home run in in 100 at-bats. Well, that homer finally came in the first inning off Chris Young, a solo blast to left field. It was Rendon's first home run in 191 at-bats dating back to Sept. 14 of last season. Rendon hit 21 homers in 2014 and has the potential for even more. Perhaps that swing can get him going.

Murphy goes yard: Murphy hit his third homer of the season on Tuesday, a solo shot to right field off Young to make it a 3-2 game. Murphy now has three homers in 26 games with the Nats, which puts him on a 19-homer pace over a full 162 game season. That's a notch or two ahead of the 14 homers he hit in 130 regular season games in 2015, which was a 17-homer pace over 162 games.

Harper keeps scuffling: With all the talk this week about who should star in Space Jam 2, Harper has looked in recent days like he's auditioning for a role. Maybe somewhere in the galaxy right now a Nerdluck is blasting homer after homer into the oblivion. Okay, maybe not. But the real life Harper had another rough night Tuesday with zero hits in five at-bats and three strikeouts. Harper has multiple Ks in three straight games and is now batting .256 on the year. 

Up next: The Nats and Royals close out their series in Kansas City with a 2:15 p.m. start. Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 2.25) will look to continue his excellent run to begin the season. Right-hander Kris Medlen (1-2, 4.87) will take the mound for the Royals. After Wednesday, the Nats move on to Chicago for a four-game series at Wrigley against the Cubs.

Nationals minor league affiliate to play rare tripleheader

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Nationals minor league affiliate to play rare tripleheader

Here's something you don't see every day. The Single-A Potomac Nationals, an affilliate of the Washington Nationals, will play three games on Wednesday in a rare tripleheader.

Doubleheaders in baseball are common. The Nationals have one coming up in just over a week on Saturday May 14. Three games in one day, though? That's a lot of baseball.

Here's how it will work. The P-Nats and the Lynchburg Hillcats will play their first game at 3 p.m. in Lynchburg. It's a continuation of Monday's game that was suspended in the fifth inning due to rain. That game will go nine innings. They will then play two seven-inning games to close out their series.

So, barring extras, that means 19 innings of baseball. That's about the same as a doubleheader of two nine-inning games, but this day will have three different game results. 

A tripleheader, by the way, has not been played in the majors since 1920. It has been almost a hundred years and it may never happen again.

For more on the tripleheader, click here.

 

Podcast: 'Baseball in the District' - Projecting Harper's USA super team

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Podcast: 'Baseball in the District' - Projecting Harper's USA super team

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On this week's episode of 'Baseball in the District,' we examined the Nats' resurgence in the Midwest, Bryce Harper's surprising struggles and how the suspension of Dee Gordon could affect the NL East. We also projected what Harper's idea of a U.S.A. super team for the World Baseball Classic would like.

This week's episode also featured a very special guest: D.C. Washington, the national anthem extraordinnaire that has become a fan favorite around town. How did he get his name? How did he get his start singing anthems? Does he still get nervous before them? D.C. answered those questions and more in what turned out to be a very fun interview.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.