Desmond was a late scratch, for precautionary reasons after he apparently tweaked his right knee in Wednesday's loss to the Braves. The Nationals said he could have pinch-hit, if needed.
"The pain is a little bit up his hamstring," manager Davey Johnson said. "I wasn't going to use him to pinch-hit and aggravate that and have a bigger problem."
Desmond went through warmups Friday, and said he didn't aggravate the injury. But with a day off Thursday and another Monday after the three-game series in Philadelphia, the first-place Nats wanted to play it safe.
"It was more of a direct thing today," Desmond said. "I just feel it in my hamstring a little. I guess the doctor diagnosed it as a mild strain. I'm sure it's something I've had before and not even known. Just a little bit sore. I think Davey just wanted to be smart and see if we can get better in the next few days and take care of it before it gets any worse."
Danny Espinosa moved from second base to shortstop, and Steve Lombardozzi was inserted into the leadoff spot and played second base. Jayson Werth was moved to the sixth spot in the lineup, where Desmond was originally slotted.
The Nationals were also without left fielder Michael Morse for most of the game, after he was hit by a pitch on the right hand in the first inning, and the offense managed just six hits in the 4-2 loss.
"At the end of the day, we're comfortable with anybody we put on the field regardless of what happens," said starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who took the loss. "It's not as if a starter goes out and someone off the bench has to go in, that we lose confidence. These are guys who have been doing it all year -- whether it's been Mikey Morse or Desmond gone, everybody just comes in to step up."
Catcher Kurt Suzuki was back in the starting lineup Friday after taking a foul tip Wednesday directly off the back of his right hand. X-rays taken after the game were negative.
"Suzuki, I thought had a broken hand," Johnson said. "He's fine, too."