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Back in lineup, Espinosa delivers big blow in Nats’ win

Jun 6, 2015, 12:28 AM EST

AP

Danny Espinosa would have started making the mental adjustment required when moving from a spot in the daily lineup to a spot on the bench, if only he had enough time to consider it.

Before Espinosa could get comfortable in a reserve role, though, he found himself right back on the field for the Nationals on Thursday, back at second base after Yunel Escobar injured his right wrist on a check swing during the first inning against the Cubs.

“I mean, I sat for one inning,” he joked Friday night. “So it’s not like I sat for two weeks and jumped back in there. I just keep playing and stay with my approach of what I want to do and go out there and battle.”

So when Espinosa stepped to the plate for his first at-bat Friday night, his presence in the lineup necessary once again because Escobar’s wrist had not healed enough, he felt perfectly comfortable. And when he clobbered Tsuyoshi Wada’s 2-2 fastball over the visitors’ bullpen in left field, the Nationals sure were happy to still have him in a significant role.

Espinosa’s 3-run homer, his seventh of the season, ignited a reconfigured Nats lineup, which churned out its largest offensive output in more than two weeks on Friday, beating the Cubs 7-5.

“We needed somebody to get us going,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Bryce [Harper] has been carrying us all season, really. It was just good to have Danny get in there and once again get another opportunity with Escy dealing with the injury. Just huge for him.”

Espinosa has come up huge for the Nationals often this season, surprising just about everyone with his ability to provide a productive bat from both the left and right sides after two miserable seasons that prompted the organization to make him try giving up switch-hitting this spring.

Now with the season more than 33 percent complete, Espinosa finds himself a significant contributor. His seven homers rank second on the club behind Bryce Harper’s league-leading 18. His 28 runs scored also rank second to Harper (43), as do his 20 walks (to Harper’s MLB-leading 48).

That the once-struggling infielder has been able to do that, all while accepting whatever role was asked of him, hasn’t been lost on his teammates.

“Very impressed,” said right-hander Tanner Roark, who knows a thing or two about an ever-changing role on the roster. “He’s, what, second in home runs? That’s pretty good. Keep doing what he’s doing. We’re all here for him.”

Though Espinosa’s production from the left side of the plate has begun to diminish in recent weeks (he’s hitting just .219 but with a solid .730 OPS) he has remained highly productive from the right side. After Friday’s 2-for-4 performance (he also doubled), he’s now hitting a robust .375 with two homers and a 1.053 OPS.

“I’ve felt good,” he said. “I’ve stayed with what I’m doing. I’ve tried to stay within myself every day and stay with my routine and go out there and battle and have good at-bats.”

Assuming Escobar’s injury isn’t serious — initial X-rays were negative — Espinosa is almost certainly headed back to the bench soon. That doesn’t mean the Nationals won’t continue to trust him when the time comes, recognizing he can help them in plenty of ways.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” manager Matt Williams said. “It’s well-documented: Righty-on-righty in spring training, playing some third, moving around the diamond. He’s versatile. He can play anywhere. He’s ready to play every day. Yesterday’s an example of him being prepared and ready. At a moment’s notice, he’s in the game and ready to go.”

  1. veejh - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:36 AM

    I love the resurgence of Danny. I, too, had counted him out and would have been pleased had he been included in some offseason deal. He’s not quite on pace for 1st half 2011 Espinosa, but I think this pace is sustainable. Heck, maybe he turns it up. I’ve seen posters talk about benching Dez for Espi, and I kind of think this has some merit now. Dunno….chemistry vs performance. Is the chemistry really that messed up w Dez off the bench for a minute, or could it ignite Dez to where we need him to be. Complicated stuff.

    btw….Dez 2 for 4 from the 6 hole. This is where he belongs, not the 2 hole.

    • conatsguy - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:45 AM

      Agree. Dez is a wildcard AB in the lower middle of the line up. Still hacks a lot, but can do some serious damage.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:04 AM

      Saw that. Looking forward to the reading the whole book.

    • conatsguy - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:04 AM

      Wow! Looks like the Lerners are really involved in keeping prospects in house- keeping Rizzo in check. Mike Had to play his ace card to close the deal…I like the dynamics going on between Nats management and the baseball staff. Win Win for the fans.

      • ArVAFan - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:17 AM

        They’re not absentee landlords, that’s for sure. We (fans) got lucky on the ownership . . . considering some of the alternatives.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:58 AM

        I don’t believe that for a second. I do believe in negotiations you sometimes tell the other side that your bosses K.O.’d the deal as a negotiating tactic. Whatever transpired, Rizzo kept Taylor Jordan and got it done.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:33 AM

      Rizzo made this team. He knows what he is doing. There are few GMs who have turned a franchise around the way Rizzo has transformed the Nats.

    • Jfmii - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:58 AM

      Great stuff

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      I got a bootleg advance copy of the book. The actual exchange went down like this.

      Rizzo: “Ted, I’m trading Robbie Ray for a guy named Doug Fister.”

      Lerner: (Googles ‘fister’, but fat fingers it on his old man computer) “My God! That’s obscene. We’ll have none of that on MY team.”

      Rizzo: “Okay then. YOU come down here and general manage this team. I’m going to Caddies!”

      Barry Svrluga then passes this lead on to his colleague Chico Harlan, who is now writing for the Business section and working on a story about the perverse internet habits of corporate CEOs.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:01 AM

        LMAO, now that version makes sense. No way Rizzo pulls out the “quit” card but I believe he told Dombrowski something close to that to pull Taylor Jordan out of the deal.

        The Gio went deal with 4 prospects. If they let that through, the Fister deal was a bargain. You get a prospect back once you QO to Fister.

  2. laddieblahblah - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:59 AM

    It was good to see Espinosa get some long-overdue praise from the NI community last night. I didn’t want to comment until I had done some research, and I was too lazy last night. Espinosa has been killing RH pitching. Just killing it. Remember, he went 0 for 8 in his first 8 appearances from the right side during the RH-only phase to start the season. Since then, he has gone 13 for 27 against lefties:

    As RHB 35 0 13 2 0 2 4 5 0 10 0 0 .371 .450 .600 1.050

    He has had 2 doubles and 2 HRs – that’s a homer or a double for every 14 ABs, and he has drawn enough walks to have a .450 OBP, even counting the 0 for 8 to start the season. Since then, his OBP is well over .500. Those are Harper-like numbers.

    I thought it was worth a try to get Ryan going last night by hitting him in front of Harper, but the only time Ryan got on base he failed to score from 1b on what would otherwise have been an easy Harper triple, and Bryce ended up being caught in no-man’s land between 2nd and 3rd. Matt was trying to help Zim, and ended up clogging the base paths for Harper, instead.

    Next time the Nats face a lefty, I hope Matt platoons Danny and slots him at 5, ahead of Ramos at 6. I would plug him in at SS, and use Escobar at the top of the order with Span ahead of Harper-Rendon, or Rendon-Harper, however Matt decides to go. Let them walk Harper and have to face a guy who hits lefties even better than Bryce.

    I cannot think of a single good reason not to do it.

    • Jfmii - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:00 AM

      Nice thought process

  3. natsfan1a - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    Plus, he took some hit at second. Good on you, Danny.

    Of course, not to be forgotten is Huggla’s clinch of the half-off price for Papa John’s. I cheered when that happened, as such clinches have been few and far between lately. Heck, I may even get a custom Huggla jersey. Or not. 😉

    • natsfan1a - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:19 AM

      (confidential to MNF, it’s Swedish for owl)

  4. Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    A couple of thoughts from last night’s game:

    Michael Taylor’s play in LF was exceptional, and it wasn’t just the great throw, but the way he played the ball before the throw was outstanding. He ran back, stopped and positioned himself perfectly to get the carom, and turned and fired a perfect pea to 2nd. Combine that with a much better approach at the plate with 2 strikes and he had a good all around game. The AB that he worked into a walk was impressive. He also showed some great wheels when he motored around the bases to score.The kid is earning some stripes.

    Denard Span bailed Blake Treinen out big time with his catch at the wall. BTW, Span wasn’t playing all that deep on that play, he covered a lot of green before timing his leap perfectly. I’m telling you, it is such a treat watching the guy play his position. Re-sign him, Mike!

    Matt Williams was asked about the Zimmerman/Harper base running fiasco after the game. His take was that Ryan was waiting to make sure that the ball wasn’t caught before getting too far off of first, then he mentioned that he also has the foot issue that may have slowed him down, leaving Henley with the decision to hold him, and then he mentioned Bryce over- hustled by not watching the lead runner, but that he’d take that any day. Matt sure has a way of covering for his guys with the press. It sure looked like Ryan thought it was a home run, like everybody else in the stadium, and that he was trotting until he saw that it didn’t clear the fence.

    Danny Espinosa seems to be on a mission to make the decision to relegate him to the bench a very difficult first world problem for the Nats, but no, I don’t agree that moving him to the OF makes sense, at this time.

    Also, I am not sold on the wisdom of giving up anything more than a low level player for Zobrist. Actually, I don’t see him as a needed addition at all. Bring him in would seem to only be of value if you’re moving several pieces around, imho.

    • richardp6 - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:12 AM

      Does anyone find it disturbing that harper gave up and didn’t even try to get into a rundown? they do drop that ball occasionally and with a man on 3rd, could result in a run. Im not sure I have ever seen a player just wait to be tagged like that.

      • Eric - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:14 AM

        I thought that was odd yeah.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:22 AM

        Since Zimm was on third there was no where for him to go but back to 2nd. No need for the defender to even throw the ball. Second baseman, or SS could just walk towards him with the ball in hand coming from 2nd. He was toast. That whole thing was a series of dumb baseball.

    • Eric - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:13 AM

      +1 on MAT’s okay off the ball off the wall. His decision to hit the brakes, his positioning, and his throw were all perfect.

      Agreed on his ABs, too. Even the strike 3 called was, per MASN pitch track, arguably, a really good take.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:18 AM

      +1 on this. Zobrist over the off-season was a much different proposition than he is today. He’s been hurt, he’s scuffling and he’s a FA in four months. I would happily give up one of the pitching Taylors for him, and maybe somebody from Potomac, but that’s my limit. If — big “if,” I realize — everybody gets healthy, Nats will struggle to find ABs for Espinosa. Zobrist doesn’t fit in that equation. Is Taylor a better OF, in the field, at the plate, than Zobrist? As Joe says, Taylor’s learning curve is accelerating. The Taylor we see now is better than the Taylor of a month ago, and by the end of the season he’s going to be a better player than he is today. I’m doubt Zobrist will be a plus over Taylor — and Werth — when September rolls around.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:26 AM

        I agree with you 100% on this, Theo. Like I said, unless there is going to be a major shakeup involving several pieces I don’t see the logic.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:04 AM

      “Denard Span bailed Blake Treinen out big time with his catch at the wall. BTW, Span wasn’t playing all that deep on that play, he covered a lot of green before timing his leap perfectly. I’m telling you, it is such a treat watching the guy play his position. Re-sign him, Mike!”

      Span was deep but shaded towards right-center. Watch the video again. He had a long way to go horizontally and got in position a click early to time his jump.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        I agree it was deep for Span, but he was where most CF’s play most of the time.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:22 AM

        But not where Span plays most of the time. I applauded his positioning immediately when I saw it. Probably 5 steps deeper than his normal depth and that allowed him to be there a click early.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Read MLBTR’s summary of Rosenthal on Nats and Zobrist. Certainly doesn’t sound like anything is happening anytime soon. Rosenthal garnished what is pretty much an inflated rumor byl hinting that acquiring Zobrist might free up the Nats to move Desmond. (He doesn’t suggest that Desmond and Zobrist are part of the same deal.) I don’t believe the Nats are at all concerned about trading Desmond. Apart from the hope that Desmond hits a hot streak, the Nats — with Zobrist — would have to receive prospects equivalent to more than a first round draft choice — probably close to the Turner/Ross deal — and at this point in the season, and especially in light of Desmond’s performance so far, that just isn’t going to happen. GSM’s fantasy of a block-buster deal seems very unlikely.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    Look at that slider K on Lake!!! That was a great pitch.

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