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More on Espinosa, Werth and Gonzalez

May 9, 2015, 10:09 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images

Bryce Harper once again stole the show last night, but there was plenty else worth discussing about the Nationals’ 9-2 thumping of the Braves. Such as…

Danny Espinosa hit two homers left-handed
If you’ve followed his career at all, last night’s performance by Espinosa was one of the all-time head-scratchers. He struck out twice while batting right-handed against Braves lefty Eric Stults, not looking particularly good in either at-bat. Then he homered twice while batting left-handed against right-handed relievers.

What in the world is going on here?

“I’m just trying not to do too much, just trying to stay within myself,” Espinosa said. “I’m just trying not to over-think things, stay in rhythm, hit what’s given to me and not try to create something.”

OK, so there’s absolutely some Crash Davis-inspired clichés within that quote, but it’s also telling in many ways. When Espinosa struggled mightily from the left side of the plate the last several seasons, he often looked like he was trying to do too much, trying to make something big happen every time he swung. Now, that swing is much more under control, and the fact both of his homers last night went to the opposite field tells you he indeed is just hitting what’s given to him.

Espinosa still is better right-handed (5-for-15, .412 OBP) than left-handed (13-for-56, .328 OBP) but he has now hit four home runs this season (incredibly, second-most on the roster behind Harper) and all four have come from the left side.

Jayson Werth hit his first homer of the season
The easy thing to suggest is that three days off to rest his surgically repaired shoulder must’ve had something to do with it, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“No, I felt the same,” Werth said. “I’ve been feeling better and better. Obviously, we needed a couple days there, but hopefully we’ll be good for a while.”

Werth has maintained for weeks he’s been hitting the ball hard and just hadn’t gotten the results, and there was something to that. But he also wasn’t elevating anything off the bat, so last night’s no-doubter to deep left field was a particularly encouraging sign.

“It was like I was squaring balls up, but hitting them flat,” he said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of backspin on it. That’s probably why they were being caught. I’ve been working on it and kind of tinkering around. Hopefully I got something I can roll with for a while.”

And what did Werth think of this homer-happy night for the Nationals, with two of his teammates each clubbing a pair over the fence?

“I lost the Derby,” he cracked.

Gio Gonzalez pitched a gem
It didn’t seem as significant because of the late offensive explosion, but the Nationals needed Gonzalez to be in top form in what was a low-scoring game most of the night. And the lefty responded with a fantastic outing. He gave up two early runs, neither of them entirely his fault, then settled into a real groove.

Gonzalez retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, striking out eight while walking only one. He also kept up a brisk pace on the mound, something he’s not always known for doing.

“I think [pitching coach Steve McCatty] helped me out with that, too,” he said. “Sitting next to him a little bit and asking [Doug Fister], ‘How’s my tempo?’ Cat did a great job of pushing me: ‘Hey, let’s go. Let’s pick it up a little bit. Offspeed pitches you’re slowing down.’ It’s nice to see when they’re picking up and giving you a heads-up.”

So, is that improved pace simply a byproduct of Gonzalez pitching well, or does it play a role in how well he pitched?

“I think it’s the way he feels about his control on the mound, but it also contributes to his success,” manager Matt Williams said. “When he can keep that good pace going — gets the ball, gets back on the mound and has good rhythm — then he throws it where he wants to and his velocity comes, too. I think he did really well.”

  1. unkyd59 - May 9, 2015 at 10:34 AM

    Newposted… laddie got me thinking about the ramifications of elevating Spinner over Desi….:

    @laddie, re: Desi…Even as a charter booster of Desi’s, it’s becoming difficult to argue your points wrt choosing between him and Spinner. An ancillary concern, however, is Desi’s $$value to the club. If he hits close to 20 HRs again this year, and plays to his career level of defense, that QO is there for the making, somebody else will give him big$$, and we’ll have another high pick to play with, in ’16. Or, we could concievably trade him at the deadline, for a more relevant player, or decent prospect. If he’s relegated to the bench, doesn’t he prolly walk, with no compensation? I guess you’d have to project the WAR for those two, to gauge whether using Danny FT is worth losing the potential comp for Desi… Am I making sense?

    • therealjohnc - May 9, 2015 at 12:59 PM

      It’s a fairly silly debate (Desmond vs. Espinosa). There’s no choice to make unless/until Rendon is healthy & ready. Right now the person most impacted by Espinosa’s (SSS) renaissance is Dan Uggla. The way that Espi is batting, the standard #1 infield is obviously Escobar/Desmond/Espinosa. Given that, and that Desmond is the one that hasn’t played other positions, Desmond is the starting SS. He just is. Get used to it. Uggla isn’t good enough with the glove or bat to push any of those guys to the bench.

      Since Rendon’s return isn’t imminent, let’s not make June’s decision based on the data available to us in May.

      • unkyd59 - May 9, 2015 at 3:12 PM

        Sorry… I forgot that we always confine our discussions to today’s game, with no consideration given to tomorrow, next week or (perish the thought!) a month down the road…. How silly of me!

  2. manassasnatsfan - May 9, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    If the administration was as tight lipped about national security as the Nats are on Rendon’s condition the country would be ultra safe.

    • npb99 - May 9, 2015 at 11:18 AM

      Where’s wikileaks when you need it?

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 9, 2015 at 1:57 PM

      What does that mean? Please explain.

  3. Section 222 - May 9, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Espi’s game ending catch was the MLB Network Premiere Play of the Day.

    • ArVAFan - May 9, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      +1

    • Bruxtun - May 9, 2015 at 11:33 AM

      It was a great catch. Watching from the 1st base side of the 300s I had a good angle and knew he had it all the way. Good day for Danny.

  4. TimDz - May 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    In the last post’s comments, some astutely noted the possibility that it takes three days to rest from a cortisone shot….

    One has to wonder if Werth can pull off a “Zimmermanesque” tear at the plate, if Werth did indeed get a shot.

    Harper is hot, Zimmerman and Ramos are warming up, Escobar has been consistent…if Werth gets hot, it could be a fun few weeks…

    • unkyd59 - May 9, 2015 at 11:13 AM

      I hope there was no shot… That’s for inflammation, and I rather see him get the rest, rather that have the cause of the inflammation be further aggravated. Let’s hope that he just is getting his strength, his eye, and timing back… That makes sense, for how long he’s actually been swing the bat, it should be like a couple-3 weeks into the season for him, now…no?

      (And why have I been required to sign in three times, this morning?!?!?!

    • npb99 - May 9, 2015 at 11:21 AM

      Not so sure about Zim. He has his RBIs but other numbers not so great.

      • unkyd59 - May 9, 2015 at 11:26 AM

        That’s called clutch hitting, right?

        (4th sign-in, dammit…)

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 9, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        Did you disable your browser’s cookies?

      • unkyd59 - May 9, 2015 at 1:51 PM

        Nope… Apparently, with the last iOS update (iPhone 4s) came a “private browsing mode” for safari…. as easy to enable as to accidentally report a comment, here….

        Carry on…

  5. micksback1 - May 9, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    Was at game last night, had a blast, would have been a prefect night if Caps had won

    I predicted before season that Bryce would hit 35 HR and about 100 RBI’s

    He is a beast!!!!

    Boys are playing well. Just get helathy and get that BP secure and this could get interesting, R Zim and Desi have been very disappointing period. I hope R Zim gets in going and I already have posted what I think of Desi.

    GO NATS, CAPS and WIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. micksback1 - May 9, 2015 at 11:57 AM

    let me add, I am very proud of Espi

  7. sec105rowwseat28 - May 9, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    Reports of Ian Desmond’s demise are greatly exaggerated. There is a far better chance that his number 20 will be retired by the Nationals today than there is of him ever being replaced by Danny Espinosa.

  8. chazzmichaelmichaelzz - May 9, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    Looking back at Espinosa’s swings yesterday, he was swinging for the fences right-handed, high leg kick, overpowering swing, head moving, and striking out twice. Left-handed, he was calm, low leg kick, head never moves, eyes clearly on the ball, solid contact, and rounding the bases twice. Oh, irony. Swing for the fences on your “better” side and strike out. Swing for contact on your “needs-improvement” side and hit home runs.

    • NatsNut - May 9, 2015 at 1:45 PM

      This game.

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