Results tagged ‘ Danny Espinosa ’

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

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Inter-Nationals

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Hello everyone.

Things here in camp could not be better. I think that Spring Training has picked up its pace. Everyone is getting their scheduled innings and at-bats. Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson could not be more pleased with what they are seeing.

One National who should be extremely pleased with himself is Ross Detwiler, who tossed 4.0 scoreless innings in Team USA’s win-or-go-home victory on Saturday against Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Just like last October, with his team’s season in the balance, Ross put forth his finest performance and picked up the first save of his career.

I wonder if Ross’s mental preparation for that game included thoughts about all of the brave U.S. service men and women he met during the USO Tour he took with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and teammate Craig Stammen back in December. It would not surprise me, as Ross is that type of individual.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez left Viera yesterday and joins Ross and his new teammates for the first time today. He’ll get the starting nod tomorrow night as Team USA faces Puerto Rico in Miami (8 p.m. on MLB Network). Gio will be challenged, as the Puerto Rican lineup will likely include the likes of Yadir Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Mike Aviles and Alex Rios.

Of course, we are equally as proud of Roger Bernadina (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic), Mike Costanzo (Italy), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada), Adrian Nieto (Spain) and Matt Torra (Italy) for their contributions for their respective WBC teams/countries. I’d say it is fitting that our organization from Nation’s Capital is well represented in this global event.

Two position players that warrant special notice are a new-look Danny Espinosa (.345 batting average) and Anthony Rendon (.296, three doubles, three home runs). Judging by their Grapefruit League performances, I feel confident that both will enjoy productive seasons.

Last week, I was pleased to be able to share dinner with Astros manager Bo Porter. We are so proud of Bo. Honestly, he was made for this job.

As Bo explained, they are in the midst of implementing a new culture there. His club will face some challenges, not the least of which include Houston’s move to the American League and stiff AL West competition from the A’s, Angels, Mariners and Rangers. I wish Bo and his Astros nothing but the best.

Of course, Bo’s departure created a well-deserved opportunity for first base coach/outfield instructor Tony Tarasco in D.C. Tony’s transition has been seamless as he has preexisting relationships with all of our homegrown players from his days as our outfield/baserunning coordinator. I know he is also thrilled to reunite with Davey, for whom he played for in Baltimore.

As always, I have enjoyed the interaction with fans down here at Space Coast Stadium. For so many reasons, there is genuine optimism in the air among our fan base. And the sheer number of our fans down here is up compared to previous springs. I think this bodes well for a busy and boisterous ’13 campaign at Nationals Park.

Speaking of which, with Opening Day just three weeks away, reports are that everything at Nationals Park is rounding into proper shape. Our dedicated staff is putting the finishing touches on various projects and polishing up the place. Everything will be ready for our final exhibition game on Friday, March 29 against the New York Yankees. The cherry blossoms may even be in bloom in left field.

Until we blog again …

The Next Best Thing

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Every year, in every Major League camp, there is some youngster who shows up, opens eyes with his swing or his arm, and becomes the next most-talked about prospect, waiting to crack the big leagues. Yes, we’re early in spring. Yes the Nationals roster looks just about full, minus a pitcher or two in the bullpen. But this year’s player, clear to anyone who has been watching, is Anthony Rendon.

Last year, fans of Bryce Harper, who had been following him since his Sports Illustrated cover photo at age 16, trumpeted his case to make the Opening Day roster. And while Harper flashed signs of the player that would roar through September to capture NL Rookie of the Year honors, he was a raw ball of energy back in March.

Rendon hopes to follow Harper's path as the top prospect in the system.

Rendon hopes to follow Harper’s path as the top prospect in the system.

Rendon is the anti-Harper. He is so relaxed, so smooth – and generously listed at just 6’0”, 195 pounds, so unimposing – that one might not even notice he was there, if not for the booming cracks of baseballs flying off his bat.

His swing is not violent like Harper’s. Instead, it starts with a big, smooth, looping hand load, a Ryan Zimmerman-esque leg kick, and a sudden flash of some of the fastest hands you’ve ever seen. One moment, he appears to be just watching a pitch into the mitt. The next, he has turned it around, sending it screaming to some distant corner of the field.

Danny Espinosa sat at third base with two out in the bottom of the second on Thursday night as the Nationals hosted the Mets in Viera. Rendon – batting eighth and playing third base – fell behind in the count, worked it back even, then swatted a double to the opposite-field gap in right-center, into the prevailing wind. In his second at-bat, with runners at the corners, he hit a sharp grounder deep in the hole at short, which only failed to go for another hit as Omar Quintanilla was able to go the short way to second for a force, with Ian Desmond scampering home from third base.

Two more at-bats, two more RBI. The 22-year-old with just 160 professional plate appearances has been the most productive player at the plate for Washington so far this spring, batting .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles, a home run and a team-high five RBI. One of the seven outs he’s made came on a home run robbed at the wall in Port St. Lucie a few days ago.

Rendon has also impressed with his defense - especially his arm - this spring.

Rendon has also impressed with his defense – especially his arm – this spring.

Then there’s the defense, the forgotten part of Rendon’s game. He didn’t have any chances Thursday night, but has already made a pair of notable plays this spring. On Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, he snared a hot shot, raced to the bag at third for the force, and fired a seed across the diamond for a 5-3, inning-ending double play. The next day, he charged a Chone Figgins bunt up the line, barehanded the ball on a do-or-die play, then straightened up and threw a bullet to first to beat the speedy runner by a full step.

After making a short, wide-eyed stint in Major League Spring Training last year, the Rice University product looks noticeably more settled in all aspects of his game this year.

“I think I’m a lot more comfortable now, just knowing that I have one year under my belt,” said Rendon of camp this year, and added that he was thrilled to be getting a lot of opportunities early in spring. “I missed a large amount of games last year, so just any at-bats, any playing time I can get right now is really helpful.”

Baseball America ranks Rendon the 30th overall prospect in baseball, tops among Nationals farmhands. MLB.com has Rendon at 28th, while Baseball Prospectus has him 35th. After a week of games, one has to wonder how much his stock may have risen already. And while Thursday night was the first chance for many Nationals fans to see the young star play on television, it shouldn’t be long before they have that opportunity every night.

Weekly Review: The Birds and the Beards

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Monday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training on Tuesday, marking the first official baseball activity for the Washington franchise in exactly four months. All the usual suspects arrived, and once Rafael Soriano resolved his final visa issues, every player under contract had reported.

Players began their annual NatsHD filming, with Ross Detwiler and Tyler Clippard taking center stage to start things off.

The team held its first unofficial workout on Thursday, during which an osprey dropped a recently plucked fish onto the field between Ian Desmond and Denard Span. Desmond, a Florida native familiar with this type of happening, picked up the fish and tossed it over the fence.

On Friday, the Nationals reached an agreement on a one-year deal with Jordan Zimmermann, avoiding arbitration hearings with all their players. As a result, this season will mark the first since the introduction of the arbitration process in 1977 that every single eligible Major Leaguer will avoid the legal proceedings in coming to terms on their contracts.

As promised by EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo, the famous offseason facial hair styling’s of certain Nationals players began to be trimmed down for the season, most noticeably Danny Espinosa’s beard, which had gone untamed since the end of the 2012 season.

Hair Today…

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Those fans that made it out to NatsFest were treated to the offseason facial hair stylings of a number of their favorite players. While Jayson Werth arrived with his now-familiar grizzle, it was another member of the team who stole much of the spotlight: Danny Espinosa.

Espinosa’s propensity for quick facial hair growth had been pointed out numerous times since his arrival in The District, but he had never let it go beyond a week or two. Then, suddenly, the infielder showed up in Washington in late January, having not shaved since the end of the 2012 season. His mountain man image quickly spread across the internet, as fans wondered aloud if he had overtaken the title of best facial hair on the team.

EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo joked at NatsFest that the team had “some facial hair problems we need to attack.” And so, sure enough, off came the beard, one uncomfortably hilarious strip at a time. Enjoy the process as Espi returns from nearly unrecognizable to his usual self, with a couple of ridiculous stops along the way.

Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.

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