Results tagged ‘ Danny Espinosa ’

The Good Fight

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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.

Gio Gonzalez averted disaster in the first on the way to six strong innings.

Gio Gonzalez averted disaster in the first on the way to six strong innings.

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.”

Tyler Moore's late blast gave Washington some breathing room.

Tyler Moore’s late blast gave Washington some breathing room.

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.

Highlights: 5.5.13

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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.

What to Watch for: 5.4.13

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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.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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

PIVOTAL PRODUCTION

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.

IRREGULARS

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.

What to Watch for: 4.30.13

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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.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

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.

PIVOTAL PRODUCTION

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.

Making The Adjustment

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It was only a matter of time.

That was the sentiment expressed by Davey Johnson and echoed from locker to locker throughout the Nationals clubhouse Thursday night following a complete and dominant 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Entering the evening on a four-game losing skid and looking to even the season series with the Reds at 2-2, Washington needed a good showing. They got it out of the gates from ace southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who silenced the powerful Cincinnati lineup. The Reds managed only a single hit through eight frames against Gonzalez, who walked two and struck out seven for his second win of the season.

Gonzalez shut down the Reds once again Thursday night.

Gonzalez shut down the Reds once again Thursday night.

It was a bit of a perfect storm for the lefty, who, in stark contrast to his 21-win season last year, had struggled to get ahead of hitters in his first four starts of 2013. For whatever reason, though, Gonzalez has always matched up well against the Reds, and he continued his mastery Thursday night.

“My job is to make sure we stay in the game as long possible,” said Gonzalez, who certainly did that, improving to 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA (3 ER/26.0 IP) in four career starts versus Cincinnati. “They’ve got a great hitting lineup…you’ve got to just go out there and trust your stuff.”

Perhaps more surprising, the Nationals offense came to life against a crafty soft-tosser in Bronson Arroyo. When bats are struggling, a pitcher that nibbles with a myriad of crooked deliveries is hardly a recipe for turning things around. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did, led by three-RBI nights from both Danny Espinosa and Denard Span. While Span’s slap-hitting style may have lined up well against Arroyo, it was Espinosa who provided the most crucial hits, plating Ian Desmond for the first run of the game on an RBI-double in the second inning before crushing a two-run shot into the home bullpen to break the game open in the third.

“In the past, I’d probably try to be real aggressive and swing real hard to generate power for the ball,” Espinosa said of facing a pitcher like Arroyo. “But tonight I didn’t. Tonight I let it come to me and just tried to get a good pitch…I thought that was a pretty easy swing on my home run. I thought they were both pretty easy swings.”

Ever solid on defense, Espinosa's bat came to life on his birthday.

Ever solid on defense, Espinosa’s bat came to life on his birthday.

While Gonzalez’s adjustment was more about getting back to what worked for him last season, Espinosa’s represents a more significant change from the player with whom most Nationals fans are familiar. All spring, Johnson encouraged his young second baseman to make his swing more compact, an adjustment that led to a .333/.358/.474 Grapefruit League slash line. To date, Espinosa had not been able to carry that success into the regular season, but Thursday night provided a glimpse of what it might look like if he does.

“His goal is to improve every year,” explained Johnson of Espinosa. “I feel like with what he was working on in the spring and what he did in the spring that it’ll start paying off for him.”

Espinosa acknowledged as much, but to see the results of his adjustment play out in a Major League game helped him be more circumspect about his change in approach.

“I was swinging too hard the last two years,” Espinosa explained of his approach. “In the minors, I never swung like that, I don’t know where it came from. I needed to get back to using my hands and not trying to use my legs to generate so much.”

If Gonzalez has regained his feel for the strike zone and Espinosa has found comfort in a simpler swing, it will go a long way in helping the Nationals climb back above .500 and stay there.

Highlights: 4.25.13

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4.25.13 – Nationals 8, Reds 1

Stat of the Game: Gio Gonzalez allowed just one hit over eight innings of work, striking out seven to earn his second win of the season.

Under-the-Radar Performance: While Danny Espinosa homered and plated three on his 26th birthday, Denard Span also had three RBI, collecting three hits as well.

It Was Over When: Espinosa’s two-run shot in the third opened up a 6-0 lead from which Washington would never look back.

What to Watch for: 4.23.13

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St. Louis Cardinals (11-8) vs. Washington Nationals (10-9)

RHP Adam Wainwright (3-1, 2.48) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-0, 0.90)

The Nationals and Cardinals match up for the second of three contests as Washington’s NLDS Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler squares off with St. Louis Games 1 and 5 starter Adam Wainwright. Detwiler carries the National League’s best ERA into tonight’s game, a mark he shares with Boston’s Clay Buchholz as the lowest in all of Major League Baseball.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Rendon 3B

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP

AGGRESSIVE APRIL

With eight games remaining in the month, Bryce Harper has already matched Alfonso Soriano’s 2006 Nationals club record for home runs in April with seven. Harper’s 14 RBI are just three shy of matching Adam LaRoche (17 in 2012) and Ryan Zimmerman (17 in ‘06) for the club mark in April.

EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT!

The Nationals (40.5%) rank third in Major League Baseball in extra-base hit percentage. Only Cleveland (43.2%) and Oakland (40.9%) own superior percentages. Washington’s 148 hits this season include 34 doubles, three triples and 23 homers.

PIVOTAL PRODUCTION

Ian Desmond (12), Danny Espinosa (6) and Steve Lombardozzi (2) have combined on 20 extra-base hits, tops among middle-infield units. The Reds and Phillies, with 17 XBH apiece from its middle infielders, are tied for second in MLB.

Highlights: 4.13.13

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4.13.13 – Braves 3, Nationals 1

Stat of the Game: Stephen Strasburg surrendered just a pair of unearned runs over six innings of work, striking out seven Atlanta batters, but took the tough-luck loss.

Under-the-Radar Performance: The lone tally for the Nats came off the bat of Danny Espinosa, who drilled his first home run of the year off Braves starter Time Hudson in the fifth inning.

It Was Over When: The Braves added a key insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Jason Heyward was able to leg out the back end of a potential inning-ending double-play ball with the bases loaded.

What to Watch for: 4.6.13

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Washington Nationals (3-1) vs. Cincinnati Reds (3-1)

LHP Ross Detwiler (0-0) vs. RHP Mike Leake (0-0)

Washington absorbed its first loss of the season last night at the hands of the Reds, but will look to get back in the win column this afternoon in Cincinnati.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. Tracy 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Detwiler LHP

SPAN’S PLAN

In four games as the Nationals center fielder, Denard Span has registered four hits, a double, five walks and one RBI. Thus, Span owns a .563 OBP from Davey Johnson’s top spot. As recently as 2011, Washington ranked dead last in MLB with a .285 OBP from the leadoff slot. Last year, the Nationals improved to 18th in MLB with a .325 OBP from those batting first in Johnson’s order.

THE 500 CLUB

With 498 in the bag, Jayson Werth is just two RBI shy of reaching the 500-RBI plateau for his career. 92 of Werth’s 495 career RBI have come as a member of the Nationals. 300 of his RBI came as a Phillie, 90 as a Dodger and 16 as a Blue Jay.

PIVOT-AL PRODUCTION

Washington’s double-play combo of Ian Desmond and a freshly-shaven Danny Espinosa combined to go 3-for-8 with a double in Friday’s series-opening setback at Great American Ball Park. Desmond and Espinosa were a collective 1-for-21 during the Nationals season-opening three-game series sweep of the Marlins.

A Shark Attackle 4 U

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Following another stellar pitching performance, the Nationals are off to a 2-0 start for the second straight season. And while Gio Gonzalez’s sparkling outing and solo home run stole the headlines, there was another play in Wednesday night’s game that requires a bit more examination.

Danny Espinosa stood at third base with Roger Bernadina at first (having pinch-run, following a Chad Tracy walk) with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Denard Span was at the plate, and pulled a ball slowly towards Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano. The fielder and ball converged directly in the base path, just as Bernadina arrived en route to second base. Solano was able to make the tag, but the two collided, with Espinosa scoring from third before the throw could be made to first base.

In the moment, we described the play as a “fielder’s chomp,” as Bernadina was tagged out, but the action allowed Span to reach first safely. On the air, F.P. Santangelo called it a “shark attack” on the air, and while that’s good, we’ve used it before for some of Bernadina’s feats.

And so, as with anything Bernadina-related, we’re deferring to the folks at Sharkadina for the final call. They took “shark attack” to the next level, combining it with “tackle,” which is exactly what happened. And, as a bonus, the unassisted putout by the second baseman is scored 4U in baseball.

So there you have it. A Shark Attackle 4 U.

Now, here’s the fun part. Take the screenshot below and use your glorious Photoshop skills to replace Solano with whatever you think The Shark should be chomping. Email your submissions to curlyw@nationals.com and we’ll post our favorites!

0403was_grab

TOP 3 FAN SUBMISSIONS

From @zachlwood: Dinner Is Served

A Shark Attackle 4 U

From @ambp77: RGIII Approves

Shark 3 - ambp77 (1)

From @FakeFP: Shark On Waterskis

SharkSkis

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