Results tagged ‘ Danny Espinosa ’
Greetings from sunny Space Coast Stadium, where the weather started so-so, but spring suddenly arrived on Sunday. We are currently enjoying a gentle breeze and temperatures in the high 70’s. Perfect. I am also glad to read that things are warming up back in DC after a prolonged spate of snowy and cold weather. Sounds like spring is genuinely in the air!
Matt Williams’ first spring camp is already well underway. Pitchers have already been through two or three bullpen sessions and, yes, everyone looks great. I’ll get to that in a moment.
What has impressed me the most is just how many position players reported for duty early. With few exceptions, we have enjoyed full position-player batting practice sessions each of the last three days. So many that we have had to split the BP session over two fields.
Ryan Zimmerman in the cage. Adam LaRoche scooping balls at first base. Ian Desmond working the pivot with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot. Nate McLouth working on his jumps in the outfield. All sights to behold.
- Camp Williams is crisp, precise, upbeat and full of hustle. With that said, there have been a good number of competitive moments built in that have seized the pitchers’ attention. For example, every team has pitcher-bunting drills. However, here in Viera, pitchers and fans alike have enjoyed a competitive tweak as the pitcher attempt to bunt balls into a pair of strategically-placed ball bags. These competitive drills have resulted in good-natured hooting, hollering and trash talking. But they also demand concentration that at least partially mimics a real game.
Nothing new here, but Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all look fantastic. And I have a suspicion that Doug Fister is really going to have a positive influence on the others. First of all, Fister is an accomplished pitcher in his own right. He won 32 games in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. And, he’s been a part of another vaunted pitching staff. Doug has pitched in a World Series. He watched the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer win Cy Young awards. There is value in that, and I doubt that it is a coincidence that his locker is located next to/near Stephen, Gio and Jordan.
- Lots of emphasis on defense and defensive fundamentals. It was also interesting to see that Matt has some of his pitchers moonlighting at different positions during some bunt plays. There is a belief that the multi-position perspective will help fine tune the execution. At the very least, it’ll give our pitcher’s some perspective they may not have experienced since their days playing prep baseball.
- Incidentally, Livan Hernandez used to work out almost daily at shortstop and he was the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. I cannot express how fantastic it is to have Livan on hand as a coach. The players are really enjoying his presence and he is a heck of a teacher. Livan is a true gem who has a fantastic feel for our fans and for baseball in DC.
- I was talking to some of our player development folks and there is great enthusiasm for the projected rosters/lineups/rotations in Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. It is too early to know where various players will be assigned, but there are very real layers of talent in the upper reaches of our system that will be inevitably be called upon as the season progresses. The Opening Day 25 is important, but it is really only a fleeting glimpse of the talent assembled.
- There are ex-Expos everywhere you look around camp: Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Ian Desmond (last player left who was drafted by the Expos), Randy Knorr and Bob Henley. Ayala and Carroll were inaugural-season Nationals.
- Matt Williams’ coaching staff is filled with a lot of former catchers, which is never a bad thing. Randy Knorr, Bob Henley and Matt LeCroy. Those catchers understand the game from all angles.
- Rafael Soriano looks good. And so do his pitches. I think there is a certain comfort that comes with a second season.
- Be sure to follow the Nationals (@nationals) and Amanda Comak on Twitter. She has done a fantastic job sharing the sights and sounds of Nationals’ 2014 Spring Training on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis. Last week, Amanda shared some of the unique images that were captured by our quadcopter, which was equipped with a tiny high-resolution camera, on our various social-media platforms. For 24-48 hours there, the quadcopter was the talk of camp.
The local DC television media has descended upon Viera, so be sure to tune into all the local channels for in-depth interviews with Matt Williams and all of your favorite Nationals. Earlier today, we hosted ESPN and the Baseball Tonight Bus at Space Coast Stadium. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian were on hand. Both are great ambassadors for their network and the game of baseball. Matt Williams and Bryce Harper were their main guests, so you will be seeing both on SportsCenter tonight.
- Little more than a week until our Grapefruit League opener (Fri., Feb. 28 at Mets) and our Grapefruit League home opener (Sat., March 1 vs. Braves). There is still plenty of time to plan a great family trip for Spring Training baseball in Viera. At the risk of dating myself, I still remember childhood trips to Pompano Beach to see the likes of Mike Epstein, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and all of the old Senators. Great memories.
- If you do make it down to Space Coast Stadium for a visit, please don’t hesitate to stop me and say ‘Hello.’ Our fans’ enthusiasm and spirit are infectious and I am always impressed with everyone’s knowledge of not only the Nationals, but baseball in general. Isn’t this the best time of year? Well, outside of a busy October I suppose.
Until next time …
Washington Nationals (28-28) vs. Atlanta Braves (33-22)
RHP Nathan Karns (0-0, 6.23) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (6-4, 3.74)
Washington sends rookie Nathan Karns to the hill in search of his first Major League win as the Nationals look to take the series in Atlanta. If recent history is any indication, Sunday’s finale should be a close contest. Six of the last seven games between these two teams have been decided by two runs or less, with each club winning three of those six.
1. Span CF
2. Lombardozzi LF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Moore RF
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Solano C
9. Karns RHP
RUBBER TO THE ROAD
The Nationals aim for the rubber match victory today before returning home (where they are 15-11 this season) for 20 of their next 32 contests. Washington has played 21 of its last 31 games on the road, compiling a 15-16 record during that stretch.
D, NO E
Washington has not committed an error as a team for a season-high five consecutive games. Up the middle, the defense has been particularly strong, with Ian Desmond playing 37 straight error-free contests, while Danny Espinosa has pitched in 22 straight outings without a defensive miscue.
THE POWER OF 3
When scoring three or more runs this season, the Nationals are 24-5, good for an .828 winning percentage. Conversely, the club is just 4-23 when scoring two times or less (.148).
A couple weeks ago, when discussing the options for taking over the injured Ross Detwiler’s spot in the rotation, Davey Johnson opted not to go with Craig Stammen, despite the righty’s excellent numbers early in the season. In fact, it was precisely because of those numbers that Johnson felt he needed Stammen in case of emergency long relief, or if the team needed quality extra-inning work. And while one never wishes for such situations to arise, when one did Friday night in a crucial series opener in Atlanta, Stammen was there to answer the call.
Did he ever.
The right-hander came on with the Nationals ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the third and set down all 12 Braves batters he faced, three by strikeout, to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano tossed an inning each to finish out a 3-2 victory, one that seemed a stretch to believe after Stephen Strasburg departed with tightness in his back after just two frames.
“He was unbelievable, he did a great job,” said Johnson of Stammen’s clutch performance. “I thought he could go about 50 pitches, and he did. He probably could have gone further…It was a big win. We needed it bad.”
While it’s hard to call any single outcome in a 162-game season a must-win, Friday night may well have been the most significant single matchup on the schedule so far this season. Coming off a pair of disappointing setbacks in Baltimore, the Nationals sat with even .500 record, trailing the first-place Braves by 5.5 games in the division. With Strasburg on the mound against up-and-down rookie starter Julio Teheran, Washington appeared to have the advantage in the pitching matchup heading into the evening. When that assumed advantage was suddenly thrown out the window, it was Stammen who led the charge, as the team came together to gut out a huge win.
“I try to stick to my routine of taking it one pitch at a time,” explained Stammen, acknowledging the overused phrase, but emphasizing the importance of that mindset. “It may sound cliché, but that’s really the only way you can look at it. If you put your heart and soul into every pitch, every time, sooner or later you look up and you’re through three or four innings.”
Stammen’s four innings gave the offense enough time to piece together another run, just enough to squeak out a victory. All three runs came via productive outs, and all three were set up thanks to hustle plays. Leading off both the first and sixth innings, Denard Span stretched for an extra base after lacing a ball into the right-field corner, notching a pair of triples. In each case he went on to score easily on a deep sacrifice fly to right field by Steve Lombardozzi. The only other Washington tally came after Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each singled with one out in the second, The Shark racing around to third base after Espinosa’s chopper bounced through the right side of the infield. Kurt Suzuki followed with a grounder to third, but busted hard out of the box, beating out the back end of a potential inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play, allowing Bernadina to score.
Together, the bullpen and lineup showed the kind of hustle and effort it will take to win games with Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth still out of the lineup. Ultimately, Friday night’s game was one of sacrifice – Stammen’s well-earned tourniquet victory, Lombardozzi’s pair of run-scoring fly balls – of giving up whatever was needed to get the victory. It was epitomized by Stammen’s attitude afterward, one which the Nationals will need to embrace as they slowly get back to full strength.
“I’ll be here tomorrow with my cleats on,” he said, despite throwing 49 pitches over his four perfect frames. “If it goes 20 innings, I’m sure I can flip something up there.”
Chicago Cubs (14-22) vs. Washington Nationals (20-16)
RHP Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.97)
Washington looks to make it a 4-1 homestand with a rubber match victory over the Cubs today. The Nationals send southpaw Gio Gonzalez to the hill in search of his fourth win as Bryce Harper returns to the starting lineup for the first time since Thursday.
1. Span CF
2. Lombardozzi LF
3. Harper RF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Gonzalez LHP
COUPLE OF 3
Ian Desmond has posted consecutive three-hit efforts in two games this weekend against the Cubs. This is the third time in Desmond’s career he has registered three or more hits in back-to-back games, previously doing so in August of 2010. Spanning the 2012-13 campaigns, Desmond is 17-for-38 (.447) with five doubles, four home runs, 11 RBI, three walks, two stolen bases and nine runs scored in nine games against the North-siders.
Desmond (21), Danny Espinosa (12) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 35 extra-base hits, tops among MLB middle-infield units. The Phillies rank second with 29 extra-base hits.
BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S BEST
Nationals starting pitchers rank second in the National League and third in MLB with a 3.32 ERA (81 ER/219.1 IP). Last season, Washington paced the NL in starters ERA at 3.40.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija figured to be a tough matchup for the Nationals on Friday night. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had a strong recent history against Washington, compiling a 1.15 ERA with 16 strikeouts in two starts in 2012 – plus Bryce Harper was out of the lineup with a toe injury.
Ian Desmond had other designs. He entered the game a lifetime 5-for-10 with a pair of doubles against Samardzija, the only batter in the Nationals lineup with more than two career hits against the pitcher nicknamed “Shark” by his college teammates at Notre Dame. Desmond proved his history of head-to-head success was no fluke.
Batting fifth, the Nationals All-Star shortstop singled in his first at-bat and later scored on a two-out, two-run double by Kurt Suzuki that gave Washington an early 2-1 lead. He homered in his second trip to the plate, a two-run blast to left that snapped a 2-2 tie. He later gave the Nats a 5-2 advantage, driving home Ryan Zimmerman with a two-out double in the fifth, and scored one batter later on a two-run double by Danny Espinosa, completing the scoring for the Nats in a 7-3 victory.
Three trips to the plate against Samardzija, three hits, three runs batted in and three runs scored. Combined with their previous meetings, Desmond is now 8-for-13 with three doubles and a home run against the Cubs ace, good for a slash line of .615/.615/1.077.
Desmond’s homer, his fifth of the season, carried another impressive distinction. All five of his long balls have given Washington the lead, and the Nats are 5-0 when Desmond goes deep.
Needing a triple to complete the cycle, Desmond grounded to third base against reliever Shawn Camp leading off the bottom of the eighth inning. Although disappointed in the result, Desmond offered up some humor to put everything into perspective.
“Yeah. But, I mean, third base is a long ways away,” he said.
We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. This Q&A originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 3 of Inside Pitch.
1. How do you prepare yourself to win every day, especially over the grind of 162 games?
It was the way that I was taught to play ball. It didn’t matter if I was on a bad team, a team that was supposed to lose or a team that was supposed to win. Nothing’s ever been handed to me. When there’s a task at hand, I want to finish it the correct way.
2. Describe the team’s mindset now that it’s the hunted, instead of the hunter.
When you get onto the field, other teams should feel your presence. Mentally, you should already be up 1-0.
3. How does swagger factor into your game?
Swagger is just confidence, it’s how you carry yourself. It’s not being cocky, it’s just being confident. I think you go out there and play hard, and when you do something like hit a home run or make a big play, you act like you’ve done it before. You don’t showboat it.
4. What kind of relationship do you have with Davey Johnson?
I just see Davey as one of the guys, but I think that’s how he wants to be in the clubhouse. I was brought up to call everyone Mr. or Mrs., but he told me immediately to call him Davey.
5. What does toughness mean to you?
I don’t think I’ve ever asked for a day off. I played 160 of 162 last year. I’ll never ask for a day off if I haven’t hit a pitcher well or don’t feel 100 percent. You’ve got to learn to play with certain injuries or soreness.
6. Would you rather win a Gold Glove Award or a Silver Slugger Award?
Silver Slugger. I love defense, but I’d rather win a Silver Slugger.
7. Describe the boost you get playing in front of a sold out crowd at Nationals Park.
When you have a home crowd that’s behind you and likes you as a player and as a person, and they’re pulling for you, you want to come through. You always want to come through, but you feel like it’s just right for you to come through.
8. What is it like when you deliver in a key moment of the game?
It’s the best feeling in the world to come through in the clutch. To help the team out — put a bunt down, hit a sac fly, get a big base hit, make a nice play on defense — it feels great. You know your teammates appreciate it; they know how hard you play or how hard you don’t play. The fans appreciate it when guys play hard, run ground balls out and play the game the right way.
9. Talk about your defensive chemistry with shortstop Ian Desmond.
We’re both young and we both enjoy playing hard, and I think we’re both pretty athletic ballplayers. We like to get after it hard, get things done and take every hit away — we don’t want anything to get through the infield.
A quick glance at the final box score may suggest that Washington enjoyed a rather comfortable victory in its rubber match triumph on Sunday. But the series finale in Pittsburgh began about as poorly as one could possibly draw it up for the Nationals. They went three up, three down in the top of the first, culminating in Bryce Harper’s check swing strikeout, after which he was ejected by third base umpire and crew chief John Hirschbeck.
The bottom of the first didn’t get any better. Starling Marte hit Gio Gonzalez’s first pitch over the wall, Jordy Mercer followed with a double, and Ryan Zimmerman’s throw to first on a grounder by Andrew McCutchen hit the runner in the back. After a walk to Gaby Sanchez, the bases were loaded with nobody out.
The afternoon could well have been over right there. But Gonzalez locked in and fanned Russell Martin swinging, then Michael McKenry looking. With two outs, Brandon Inge sent a grounder past Gonzalez up the middle, but a rangy play and a strong throw across his body by Ian Desmond beat the runner to first, and the Nationals escaped with just the single run of damage.
“It just felt like the momentum shifted,” said Gonzalez after his first-inning Houdini act. “A younger me would have probably spiraled out of control, trying to be too much, trying to do too much.”
Instead, the Nationals got that run back immediately, as Zimmerman drew a leadoff walk to start the second inning, moved to third on Adam LaRoche’s double and scored on Danny Espinosa’s sac fly deep to center field, knotting the game at 1-1. The game remained deadlocked until Espinosa’s next at-bat, when he got into a two-out, two-strike hanging curveball from Wandy Rodriguez and punished it deep into the left field seats for a two-run shot, putting Washington ahead for good.
“He didn’t really try to crush it, he just met it,” said Davey Johnson of Espinosa’s swing. “Of course, he’s so strong, it went a long way.”
In a sense, that approach has been emblematic of the Nationals in general this year, where they may have pressed too much out of the gates. They are such a strong team that simply meeting the challenges in front of them should yield positive results.
The Pirates clawed back within a run in the sixth, but again Gonzalez stranded a big runner, leaving Martin at third base as the potential tying run. The start – six innings of two-run ball with two walks and five strikeouts – was much more like the Gonzalez Nationals fans got to know last year, when he won 21 games.
“He was the old Gio,” said Johnson after the game. “I hadn’t seen that grin in a long time.”
The contest remained a one-run game until late, when Washington got some fitting redemption for the first-inning antics. With one out and Roger Bernadina at second base, the Pirates elected to walk LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore, who had gone down looking three times in as many trips. Moore fell behind 1-2, then checked his swing at a pitch out of the zone, with the home side appealing down to first base umpire Jim Reynolds, who signaled no swing. Moore annihilated the next pitch to left field for a three-run bomb to put the game out of reach.
“It fires you up a little bit,” said Moore of the intentional walk ahead of him, before quickly couching his statement. “But you can’t blame them. I would have done the same thing. LaRoche was swinging a good bat and I was struggling early.”
There have been a number of games so far this season where an early miscue or unfortunate turn would alter the mood, portending a feeling of, “Here we go again.” Sunday’s contest in Pittsburgh provided the most amount of early trouble to overcome in any victory thus far in the young season. Those feelings crept up upon Harper’s ejection, grew stronger after Marte’s leadoff home run, and were at full boil with the bases loaded and no outs in the first.
But just as it turned around a road trip that saw the club lose the first two games at rival Atlanta, Washington rebounded Sunday to make it four wins in five days to close the trip, mostly low-scoring, tightly-played affairs that leaned on the good pitching and solid defensive foundation upon which this roster was constructed. If the final game of the trip does mark a turning point in the campaign, it may also well serve as a microcosm of the season as a whole. After struggling from the outset and encountering some adversity, cooler heads prevailed on the way to victory.
5.5.13 – Nationals 6, Pirates 2
Stat of the Game: Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore each both homered on two-strike pitches and each accounted for three RBI, combining for all of Washington’s offense.
Under-the-Radar Performance: After allowing the first four batters of the game to reach base, Gio Gonzalez finished six strong innings with only two runs allowed to earn his third victory.
It Was Over When: Moore swatted his three-run blast in the top of the eight to open up a four-run advantage.
Washington Nationals (15-15) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (17-12)
RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.13) vs. LHP Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.83)
The Nationals look to get back to their winning ways with Stephen Strasburg on the hill following last night’s series-opening defeat. Washington has not been more than a game above or below .500 since being 13-11 exactly one week ago.
1. Espinosa 2B
2. Desmond SS
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore RF
7. Ramos C
8. Bernadina CF
9. Strasburg RHP
Ian Desmond (17), Danny Espinosa (9) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 28 extra-base hits, tops among MLB middle-infield units. Philadelphia and Colorado are tied for second with 23 apiece.
While the Nationals welcomed Ryan Zimmerman (DL, hamstring) back into the lineup on Friday, it is worth noting that Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Denard Span and Wilson Ramos have all missed time this season while dealing with injury or illness. Davey Johnson was last able to pen a lineup that included his standard starting eight (LaRoche 1B, Espinosa 2B, Desmond SS, Zimmerman 3B, Harper LF, Span CF, Werth RF, Ramos/Suzuki C) on Sunday, April 14. Washington’s record this season with Johnson’s standard starting eight is 6-4.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Using their opponent’s record on the date of the game, the Nationals have played a team sporting a .500-or-better record in 25 of 30 games this season. The five exceptions all came against the Marlins, not including the Fish’s 0-0 record on Opening Day.
Washington Nationals (13-13) vs. Atlanta Braves (16-9)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 4.30) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (2-1, 4.50)
The Nationals look to level this series at a game apiece following a 3-2 setback Monday night. Gio Gonzalez takes the hill for Washington as the club looks to move back above the .500 mark and cut into Atlanta’s 3.5-game division lead.
1. Span CF
2. Espinosa 2B
3. Harper RF
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Moore LF
7. Tracy 3B
8. Ramos C
9. Gonzalez LHP
NEW FRONTIERS AHEAD
After the completion of this week’s four-game National League East tussle at Turner Field, the Nationals (6-7 against NL East) will play 18 straight games against foes outside the division.
Ian Desmond (14), Danny Espinosa (9) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 25 extra-base hits, tops among MLB middle-infield units. The Phillies (21) rank second behind the Nationals.
JIM LETT’S BUDDING BULLPEN
Jim Lett’s bullpen has excelled of late, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA (8 ER/34.2 IP) in 14 games dating to April 15. Lett’s relievers have posted a .178 batting average against and been touched for just two home runs during the 14-game revival.