Struggling to overcome the smokeless tobacco habit he’s had for much of his baseball life, Desmond appeared to unleash every bit of his withdrawal frustrations on an 87-mph fastball from Alex Wood in the seventh inning Sunday, homering for the deciding run in a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
“This morning I had this huge battle,” Desmond said. “I’m trying to quit dipping, and so I texted my mom and everybody and they were all like, ‘You can do it, you can do it.’ So they were all praying for me, and I made it through the whole game without dip, so that was a bigger victory than beating the Braves.”
Desmond said he’s been trying to quit since December and has been more or less successful, but he relapsed Saturday night. Perhaps a dip-free game that includes the hit that averts a sweep from the Nationals’ main NL East rival will do the trick.
“That’s incentive enough right there,” he said with a laugh.
Taylor Jordan allowed one run over 61/3 innings, working out of several jams along the way, and Jerry Blevins (1-0) retired three batters to get the win as four Nationals pitchers combined to allow eight hits.
Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his first save, striking out Jason Heyward after allowing a pair of baserunners.
Even though there are 16 matchups to come, the Nationals needed a pick-me-up against a team that was an early thorn in their side a year ago, when a three-game sweep at Nationals Park in April helped send the Braves on their way to the division title. Atlanta had won 10 of 12 in Washington.
“It was nice to get that ‘W’ and monkey off our back,” Desmond said. “We obviously understand we have some things that need to be addressed when we're playing them.”
Wood (1-1) gave up two runs and four hits over seven innings for the Braves, who have yet to allow more than two runs in a game this season. Atlanta and Washington are both 4-2 records after one week of the season.
“There's going to be about 15, 16 more games just like this,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Somebody makes a mistake or somebody blinks, and you're going to end up winning a game or losing one.”
Desmond’s homer was the only run of the game scored on a hit. Washington’s Anthony Rendon scored on an error in the first inning, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman came home on a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Jordan and Wood kept the bats quiet in between. The Nationals finished with four hits – three from their first three batters of the game and Desmond's homer.
The Nationals fielded a lineup one could have hardly expected for the first week of the season. Without Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder trouble), Bryce Harper (batting slump), Scott Hairston (placed on the disabled list) and Denard Span (day off vs. a lefty), rookie manager Matt Williams had Kevin Frandsen playing outfield in a regular season game for the first time since 2010.
“I love beating the Braves,” Jordan said. “We needed that. They're our rivals, and it’s great to get one.”