ST. LOUIS -- Shortstop Ian Desmond had to toil through years in the Minor Leagues, first with the Expos and then with the Nationals, and suffer through a few more losing seasons in the Majors before reaching the playoffs Sunday. But he made his first impression a good one Sunday on the game's biggest stage.
Desmond went 3-for-4 and was involved in both of the Nationals' rallies in their 3-2 win over the Cardinals in Game 1. He knocked a one-out single that sent Adam LaRoche from first to third in the second inning, setting up LaRoche coming around to score on an RBI single by Kurt Suzuki. And Desmond singled, advanced Michael Morse to third and eventually scored on Tyler Moore's game-deciding, two-run pinch-hit single in the eighth.
"I think that there's no secret to what I'm trying to do up there. I'm not trying to surprise anybody," Desmond said. "I'm not trying to do any tricks or anything like that. I'm trying to go up there, get a good pitch to hit and hit it.
"I think if I can control my heartbeat, I don't feel that these games are any different than the rest of them."
Indeed, it wasn't a surprise to see Desmond play so well in the playoffs. When healthy, he put together a .292/.335/.511 batting line this season and became one of the best all-around shortstops in the Majors. He bashed 25 homers, drove in 73 runs, scored 72 runs and stole 21 bases in 130 games, leading the Nationals in Wins Above Replacement (5.4), according to FanGraphs.com.
And Desmond didn't shy away from his first chance in the postseason spotlight, either.
"He's kind of proven that all year. He's had some huge hits for us in some big situations," LaRoche said. "I don't know that he lets the game or the circumstances dictate the way he plays. He's been solid out there all year.
"He's been fun to watch from last year and how much he's evolved into a really good all-around ballplayer this year. And I don't know that he's scratched the surface yet."