Results tagged ‘ Danny Espinosa ’
In a season full of moments that seem to compete against one another for space in our collective memories, Saturday night brought the latest installment of drama for the 2012 Nationals. Rallying from two runs down with a six-run, two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats sent their home park into perhaps the loudest frenzy of the season to date.
But it wasn’t just the six-run inning that caused the commotion, it was the way in which the runs were scored, and the events that set up the comeback in the first place. Steve Lombardozzi squirted a base hit past the pitcher and up the middle to score Adam LaRoche to cut the lead to one. Tyler Moore followed with a two-out knock the other way to plate Jayson Werth to tie the game. Then Danny Espinosa crushed the go-ahead, three-run shot over the bullpen in left before Bryce Harper hit the longest Nationals Park home run of his young career, an absolute rocket deep into the second deck down the right field line. The final three hits, including the two monstrous homers, all came not only with two outs in the inning, but also with two strikes on each batter.
The Nationals also made three errors on the night, contributing either directly or indirectly to four Marlins runs. Espinosa made two of them (and Lombardozzi the third), only adding that much more to the redemptive value of their clutch hits.
More than anything, though, Saturday night’s triumph was another complete team effort. A month from now, most people will only remember Espinosa and Harper going back-to-back to give the Nationals the lead, but there were a number of unsung heroes Saturday night. Here are our top five:
5. The Bullpen
The life of a reliever can seem like a thankless one. Even those who are lucky enough to have the most visibly defined roles – like closer Tyler Clippard and set-up man Sean Burnett – are expected to succeed every time out. But then there are those expected to pick up the slack in games like Saturday’s, to keep the team close when it is trailing in the late innings. After Jordan Zimmermann left the game, the trio of Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez and Ryan Mattheus combined for three innings of work, allowing just a single unearned run. All three are having very solid seasons for the Nats, and Mattheus was rewarded for the trio’s effort with his fourth win of the season, as he was the pitcher of record when the offense sparked the comeback.
4. Justin Maxwell
Some of you are probably wondering who this is, while others of you are scratching your heads, knowing that Maxwell hasn’t worn a Nationals jersey since the 2010 season. And while that is true, the Olney, Maryland native and former National has found a home for himself with the Houston Astros, who faced the Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta last night. Maxwell opened the scoring in that game with a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Paul Maholm, Atlanta’s trade deadline pitching acquisition. After the Braves tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, Maxwell drilled an even longer home run off Maholm to open the seventh, and the Astros held on for the 3-2 victory. Coupled with the Nationals come-from-behind win, the Braves loss pushed Washington 3.0 games clear in the National League East.
3. Steve Lombardozzi
Lombardozzi’s two-out single up the middle in the eighth scored the first run of the six-run rally. While those who have watched the rookie all season have become accustomed to seeing him hit the ball right over the second base bag, we haven’t seen him do it nearly as often from the right side. A switch-hitter, Lombardozzi was batting just .200 (12-for-60) as a righty coming into that at-bat. But he delivered another clutch hit, as he has been wont to do this year. And despite a rare miscue, he also played some tremendous defense Saturday night, including this gem, which saved a run.
2. Tyler Moore
With the return of Werth, Moore has acknowledged that his role will be largely off the bench down the stretch for the Nats. Taking cues from Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa, he knows he’ll have to make the most of his spot starts and especially his pinch-hit opportunities, like the one he got Saturday night. After falling behind in the count, usually pull-happy Moore stayed back and sent a line drive to the opposite field, scoring – of all people – Werth to tie the game.
1. Adam LaRoche
By the time Espinosa and Harper went deep, it was easy to forget that LaRoche had already homered twice Saturday night. Even more impressively, he hit both against tough lefty Mark Buehrle, giving him nine home runs vs. left-handed pithing this year, a new career mark. LaRoche also reached on an error and scored the first run in the six-run eighth. In a resurgent year, the first baseman leads all National League first basemen with 23 home runs and 69 RBI.
Enjoy the highlights below as the Nats look to cap a winning homestand with a series victory over the Marlins Sunday afternoon.
In 2002, the Oakland Athletics played one of the most gut-wrenching games in recent memory. Sitting on the brink of history, having won 19 contests in a row, they were just one triumph shy of setting a new American League record for consecutive victories. After taking the first two in a series from Kansas City, they needed only to close them out for a three-game home sweep to accomplish the feat. With one of their aces – Tim Hudson – on the mound, their chances seemed promising.
Through three innings, it was all unfolding according to plan with the A’s building an 11-0 lead. But then, a funny thing started to happen. The hapless Royals started to claw back. They got five runs in the fourth – normally quite a feat, but it was less than half the deficit they had dug themselves, so the party continued, undisturbed. The margin remained at 11-5 all the way to the eighth when, suddenly, they scored twice more, and had two more runners on for their superstar, Mike Sweeney. The A’s went to their best setup man, Jeff Tam. Sweeney drilled a towering, three-run shot into the left-field seats, and suddenly it was 11-10.
Celebrations were over, replaced by a nervous murmur. The A’s failed to score in the eighth, and amazingly, Kansas City pushed across a run in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 11.
That’s the thing about baseball – there is no clock to run out. You can’t simply “manage the game,” the way you can with a 30-point lead in basketball or football. You have to earn every last painful, desperate, gut-wrenching out. And, sometimes, you forget how to do that.
Of course, those who have seen Moneyball already know how this story ends. Scott Hatteberg, pinch-hitting with one out in the bottom of the ninth, took ball one, then turned on the next pitch, sending it soaring deep into the California night and the history books.
It’s hard to say what the Athletics learned that day, as they got away with their mistakes. Their collapse, as stunning as it was, did not ruin their historical moment. But, as the movie fails to show, they did not carry any of their momentum with them. The team traveled to Minnesota the next day, where they would be shut out, ending the streak. That same Minnesota team would end up celebrating a Game 5 elimination victory back in Oakland just a month later, dispatching the A’s from the postseason.
Could one make the argument that the A’s would have learned more from such a loss, than from the historic victory?
The Nationals did not get away with their mistakes last Friday night. In the opener of a crucial intradivision series, what started out like a dream turned into a nightmare, as Atlanta fought its way back from an early 9-0 deficit to earn an 11-10 win in 11 innings. Not even Danny Espinosa’s game-tying, ninth-inning home run – after Washington had fallen behind 10-9 – was enough to bail them out. The Braves kept coming, and for one night, all seemed lost.
The Braves momentum carried into the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader, where the Nats were shut out for just the second time all season, and the first time at home. A steady mist descended upon Nationals Park all day long, and into the night cap. It was a scene more befitting of Washington State than D.C., the dense clouds and light rain swarming the combined crowd of nearly 70,000 spectators all day and for much of the evening. In fact, the rain had been falling since the sixth inning of Friday night’s affair, right when the game had begun to turn on the Nats.
The offensive drought continued through the first four frames of Game 2. But then, a funning thing happened – the sky, both literally and figuratively, stopped falling. After 13 innings of stunned, scoreless ball, the Nationals went back to work, trailing just 2-0, thanks to arguably the biggest pitching performance of the season from perhaps its most unlikely hero: John Lannan. Summoned from Triple-A under the new rule that allows for an extra man to be added to the roster specifically for doubleheaders, Lannan pitched with the knowledge that he would likely be sent back to the minors following the game, regardless of the outcome. And after a shaky first that saw him escape with just two runs of damage, he was nearly unhittable the rest of the night.
That left Washington within striking distance in the bottom of the fifth, and strike the Nationals did, bit by bit. They pushed across a single run to finally get in the scoring column, but missed the chance for more. In the sixth, they did so again, tying the game, but failing to seize the lead. So they just kept coming. Roger Bernadina, filling in for Bryce Harper after he left the first game with a bruised ankle, drove home the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh. In the eighth, Harper came back. He laced a pinch-single, stole second (!) and scored on Espinosa’s single, adding a crucial insurance run. Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, who had both been out of sorts the night before, combined to slam the door shut as they have done much of the past two months.
After all the doom and gloom following Friday night’s affair, what happened in the 36 hours to follow? The Nats took two of three from their closest division rival, including both a nail-biting, come-from-behind victory and an emphatic, 9-2 rout in which the home side banished any lingering effects from Friday night’s letdown.
That’s the thing about adversity – it can crush your spirits, take you out of your element, and turn the tide of a pennant race. Or, it can bring out the best in your character and – by showing that you won’t succumb to the pressure, but rather will rally back stronger than ever – be an even bigger blow to your opponents. The Nationals will have to prove themselves six more times against the Braves before the regular season concludes, but after last weekend, they walked away from their biggest setback no worse for wear, maintaining the same 3.5-game cushion with which they entered the series.
Then they went to New York, winning a crazy, extra-inning affair by scoring six runs in the 10th inning on Monday night, and finally triumphing over Mets ace R.A. Dickey on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they completed the three-game sweep with a 5-2 win, their fifth straight. Their NL East lead sits at 4.5 games over the Braves, and more than 10 against everyone else in the division.
Time will tell if this was that moment for the Nationals, and if the offense will continue to batter the ball the way it did to open and close this weekend’s series. But one thing is for sure: what has not killed this Washington squad so far in 2012 has only made it stronger.
Washington Nationals (57-39) vs. New York Mets (47-50)
RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 2.85) vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner (1-3, 5.85)
All-Star Gio Gonzalez rebounded from his toughest start of the year five days prior against the Mets to deliver arguably his best outing in a Nationals uniform, allowing just three hits over 7.0 innings in Washington’s 5-2 win. The Nationals have dominated the Mets, taking eight of the 11 matchups so far this year, and will look to complete the three-game road sweep this afternoon.
1. Lombardozzi 2B
2. Harper RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Espinosa SS
7. Bernadina CF
8. Leon C
9. Strasburg RHP
Danny Espinosa has hit safely in 10 straight games, going 17-for-40 (.425) with four doubles, a triple, a homer, six RBI, two walks and seven runs scored. Espinosa’s 10-gamer is tied for the second-longest hit streak posted by a National this year, trailing only Steve Lombardozzi’s 13-game run, which ended last weekend.
After last night’s win, Washington is now 19-7-6 (win-loss-tie) in series play this season, including an 9-1-3 mark against NL East rivals (2-0-2 against ATL, 1-1-1 against MIA, 4-0 against NYM, 2-0 against PHI). With a win today, the Washington Nationals would secure their fourth road sweep of the season. Note that the Nationals have completed more sweeps on the road than they have at Nationals Park (two).
STRASBURG TAKES ON QUEENS
In just his second career start at Citi Field, Stephen Strasburg looks to get back in the win column against the New York Mets. Earlier this year, Strasburg tossed 6.0 scoreless innings to pocket the win on April 11, in first career start at Citi Field. In his last start, the righty tossed 5.1 innings as the Nationals built a 9-0 lead, but Atlanta eventually rallied to steal the win.
Atlanta Braves (51-41) vs. Washington Nationals (53-38)
Game 1: RHP Ben Sheets (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.89)
Game 2: RHP Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52) vs. LHP John Lannan (NR, -.–)
The Nationals stormed out to a 9-0 lead in Friday night’s series opener, only to have the Braves come back for an 11-10 victory in 11 innings. Washington powered out three home runs in the loss, though, including just the second all year off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth (leading to his second blown save) by Danny Espinosa, and the longest home run in the history of Nats Park, a 465-foot, three-run bomb by Michael Morse in the first inning.
NATIONALS LINEUP, GAME 1:
1. Lombardozzi LF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Morse RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Flores C
9. Jackson RHP
LET’S PLAY TWO
According to MLB’s Official Baseball Rules and the Elias Sports Bureau, “A doubleheader is two regularly scheduled or rescheduled games, played in immediate succession,” so today’s day-night or split “doubleheader” is actually not considered a doubleheader. Pragmatists, however, know that the Nationals are 4-3-6 (sweeps-swept-splits) when playing twice in a single day, or 14-12 overall, since landing in D.C. in 2005.
LOMBO SKOFFS AT TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA
Steve Lombardozzi has hit safely in 13 straight games. Note that Lombardozzi executed a sacrifice bunt in his lone plate appearance on July 7 vs. Colorado, but that did not terminate his hitting streak per Rule 10.23(a) in the Official Baseball Rules. His 13-gamer is the longest hit streak posted by a National this season.
EDWIN LOOKS TO FINALLY TOP BRAVES; LANNAN MAKES 2012 DEBUT
Over his six-year major league career, Edwin Jackson has beaten 25 of 30 MLB teams, but never the Braves. In addition to never beating Atlanta, he has yet to top the Nationals, Phillies, Padres and Cardinals. In the nightcap, John Lannan will make his 2012 MLB debut. Since facing Atlanta for the first time on April 12th, 2008, Lannan’s eight career wins against the Braves are tied for the MLB lead with Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels.
New York Mets (46-44) vs. Washington Nationals (52-36)
RHP Chris Young (2-3, 4.26) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-6, 2.48)
The Nationals and Mets battled through an epic affair last night, with Washington prevailing, 5-4 in 10 innings. Jordan Zimmermann, who is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA (2 ER/19.0 IP) in July takes the hill looking for his fourth consecutive win as the Nats look to take their third straight series over the Mets this season.
1. Lombardozzi 2B
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse RF
6. Moore LF
7. Espinosa SS
8. Flores C
9. Zimmermann RHP
WILD PITCH ENDS WILD NIGHT AT NATIONALS PARK
Pedro Beato’s wild pitch with two outs in the 10th plated the winning run as Washington edged NYM, 5-4, on Tuesday. The contest that featured four fruitful rallies and three blown saves in the game’s final two innings. After Jordany Valdespin hit a dramatic, three-run pinch-homer in the top of the ninth, Danny Espinosa sent the game to extra innings with a two-out, two-strike RBI-single. With the Nationals again trailing by a run, Bryce Harper’s RBI-triple in the 10th tied the game and set the stage for Beato’s decisive wild pitch.
HALF AND HALF
The Nationals rank second in the Major Leagues with a 1.80 ERA (6 ER/30.0 IP) from their starting staff since the All-Star break. Only the Giants (0.64) mark has been superior. Washington’s starting staff posted an MLB-best 3.25 ERA in the season’s first half.
ZIM’S AS HOT AS THE WEATHER
In 19 games dating to June 24, Ryan Zimmerman is batting .354 (eighth in NL in that span) with eight doubles (tied, second), 7 home runs (second), 21 RBI (first), 18 runs (third) and a 1.142 OPS (fourth).
Unbelievable. That’s a word often thrown around the English language, when really we mean incredible, or spectacular, or amazing. There’s a difference. Unbelievable literally means, as the great Jack Buck so famously put it, that we don’t believe what we just saw. There are incredible, spectacular, amazing games all the time around the game of baseball. What transpired Tuesday night between the Nationals and Mets in eight innings of pure, efficient, low-scoring baseball and two innings of sheer insanity, was hard to grasp.
The Nationals played the type of game we’ve become accustomed to seeing them play all season long – close, low-scoring, and well-pitched. Following seven shutout innings from Ross Detwiler (who has dominated the Mets, allowing just one run over 14 innings against them this season), the bullpen was set up perfectly with a 2-0 lead for Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard.
Burnett twirled a scoreless eighth, and then everything went bananas. Clippard, who had not blown a save since being inserted into the closer’s role in mid-May, gave up singles to the first two batters, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. After a big strikeout by Scott Hairston, Mets Manager Terry Collins made the unthinkable, yet totally logical decision to pinch-hit for struggling, high-priced slugger Jason Bay with a rookie who had only 77 Major League at-bats under his belt. That rookie, Jordany Valdespin, belted a ball deep to right-center field that would video replay would confirm to be a home run, putting the Mets ahead, 3-2, and seemingly dealing the Nationals a crushing blow to open the second half of the season at home.
But the Nats weren’t done yet, not by a long shot. With two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Washington was down to its last strike, as Danny Espinosa stood in against Mets closer Bobby Parnell. After surviving five straight breaking balls from the righty, Espinosa ripped a 98 mile-per-hour fastball right past Parnell and into center field for a base hit, tying the game at 3-3 and sending the affair to extra innings.
The pendulum of momentum swung again in the top of the 10th as Josh Thole put the Mets ahead once again, driving a two-out, opposite field double to make it a 4-3 game. But that only set the stage for an even more remarkable finish.
The Nationals sent three rookies to the plate to start the inning with the game on the line: Jhonatan Solano, Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper. Solano, pinch-hitting, roped a single over the shortstop to open the frame. Lombardozzi dropped a percet sacrifice bunt, easily moving the runner into scoring position. Then it was Harper’s turn. He wasted no time, lacing a shot to the wall in right-center field to score Solano and tie the game once more, belly flopping into third base with a game-changing triple.
From there, the Mets intentionally walked both Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to load the bases with one out, setting up the force. Collins was once again rewarded for his decision-making – at least initially – as Adam LaRoche bounced a ball to first base, which Ike Davis turned into a force out at home, leaving the bases loaded with two outs for yet another rookie, Tyler Moore, who had homered earlier in the game. As it turned out, Moore never needed to take his bat off his shoulders in his final at-bat.
Pedro Beato, the reliever summoned specifically to face the right-handed slugger, bounced a 1-2 breaking ball in front of home plate. The ball took a high, soaring carom off the catcher, allowing Zimmerman – who stalled initially – to almost jog home from third with the winning run.
It was the Nationals eighth walk-off win of the year, and arguably the most exciting game of the season. In all the madness, it was almost enough to forget the most unbelievable story of the entire night: Zimmerman scoring from third on a wild pitch in extra innings for a walk-off win in the first game of the second half of the season. Why is that significant? Those who attended the 2012 home opener can certainly tell you, as that game ended the exact same way: with Zimmerman scoring from third on a wild pitch in extra innings for a walk-off win.
Considering the way the first half of the season played out, if you believe in omens, there could not have been a better one to begin the second half at home.
Will Kubzansky is a sixth grader at The Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. He has been attending Nationals games since the team’s first season in the District back in 2005, and his work has been published in Sports Illustrated for Kids. Check out his blog here.
If you look in the Nats dugout every fifth day, you’ll notice something. Gio Gonzalez is smiling. And now I can truthfully say that it’s just like him to do that.
After writing an article for SI Kids about the Nationals and how this was going to be a big year for them, the team invited me to go on the field during batting practice on June 19.
When the field elevator went down, I still couldn’t believe it. Going through the umpire’s tunnel, I was so excited, my heart felt like it was going as fast as a Stephen Strasburg fastball.
Once we made it on to the field, the pitchers were taking batting practice. I think one thing you forget is that these guys are superstars in high school, so they can hit pretty well. Strasburg had at least four home runs, and all of them had power and control.
I called out to Gonzalez, and he told me he just couldn’t hit right now. I laughed, and told him that on the home opener he wasn’t having trouble. He said that he was fine then, but now he could barely slash it.
When Bryce Harper came out, he signed an autograph and said hi. He’s really nice and signed for a lot of people. What I find cool about that is with all the attention he gets, he still finds time for the fans.
I met both F.P. Santangelo and Johnny Holliday, who both advised me not to take their jobs. I told them I wasn’t planning on it.
All the pitchers seemed to be having a good time and laughing. This team was having a good time being in first place – it wasn’t all business – until game time.
Jesus Flores also came over to sign some autographs, and so did Danny Espinosa. Both of them are really nice. As it turns out, my dad works two blocks away from where Espinosa lives, and they had a long chat about the neighborhood.
Mark DeRosa was really nice too, and told me that “These guys will come over if you just yell loud enough,” which made me laugh.
Steve Lombardozzi and Gonzalez promised they would come over, and when they did, I was really happy. These guys didn’t have to sign autographs, but they did, and I was glad they remembered the fans too.
What surprised me was that these guys were friends. It wasn’t like they had been all over the MLB, which some of them had – it looked like they had known each other since the first grade. Gio continued to ham it up once the Rays got on the field, pretending to bat with a glove. The Nats came back laughing and talking with each other.
These guys are normal people, they’re nice, and they enjoy what they’re doing – they’re just a whole lot better at baseball then the rest of us – and at the moment, the rest of the NL too. These guys have some serious Natitude!
*** UPDATE: Watch the video highlights at the end of the article ***
The Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants turned back the clock in more ways than one on Thursday evening at Nationals Park. Donning the 1924-style uniforms of the old Washington Senators and New York Giants, they celebrated old traditions like standing together on the field during the National Anthem, only organ music on the public address system, and a green, metallic looking scoreboard graphic made to replicate the classic manual boards of the sport’s cathedrals, like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
The game itself turned out to be a throwback as well. Through the first six-and-a-half frames, the Giants rapped out 14 hits, but 11 of them singles and not a home run among them, their lead sitting at just 5-1 despite threatening nearly every inning. That’s when the Nationals finally made them pay for their inability to put the game away. Giants manager Bruce Bochy ran his ace, Matt Cain, back out for a seventh inning of work on a stiflingly hot night at Nationals Park, and the plan backfired. Ian Desmond powered an opposite field homer to right, and Danny Espinosa went back-to-back for the Nats, following with a shot of his own to center. The rally continued with two outs, as Bryce Harper overcame a tough call on a check swing to deliver a double that cut the margin to 5-4.
And with that, the crowd came alive. The buzz in the ballpark was different. Harper himself said after the game that when Desmond homered, Harper turned to Adam LaRoche and declared the Nationals would win the game. Following a scoreless eighth for both clubs and a dominant top of the ninth for Tyler Clippard, the Nats were left in the position of sending three rookies to face San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla needing one run to stay alive and two to win.
Yep, the Nats are going to the playoffs.—
Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 06, 2012
After falling behind 0-2, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore opened the frame with a bullet to the wall in left-center for a double. Steve Lombardozzi followed with a sacrifice bunt that Casilla could not come up with cleanly, and just like that there were runners at the corners with none out for Harper. After working the count to 3-1, the 19 year-old – who earlier in the day had finished behind Cardinals third baseman David Freese in the All-Star Game Final Vote – ripped a single through the hole on the right side, tying the game.
Nationals Park erupted. Three batters later, when Harper crossed home plate with the winning run after the Giants failed to convert the back end of a double play in a futile attempt to force extra innings, it erupted again. Single games are just that – only one contest of many in a season. But there are those, both wins and losses, that stand out above the rest. This was one of those wins, and everyone in attendance knew it.
It was only fitting that the Nationals won on a walk-off, just as the Senators did over the New York Giants in the dramatic 1924 World Series that the night was commemorating. Throughout the contest, there were recaps on the PA and videoboard between innings of each game, as the Senators fell behind three-games-to-two before coming back to win games six, seven, and the series in dramatic fashion.
Just got home from @Nationals Park. People were still fired up the entire Metro ride home. Safe to say that DC is in love with this team.—
Rachele Byrne (@RacheleByrne) July 06, 2012
Washington Nationals (36-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-30)
RHP Chien-Ming Wang (1-2, 5.11) vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez (3-5, 3.76)
The Nationals head into tonight’s matchup looking to extend their four-game winning streak. Washington also hopes to remain undefeated (4-0) in Interleague Play this month. A win for the Nationals tonight would not only give Chien-Ming Wang his first win as a starter in 2012, but would also give the team their third consecutive series victory.
STATE OF THE NATIONALS
Washington enters today at a season-best 13 games over .500, the team’s best mark since July 2005 (54-41 after 95 games). The Nationals have not reached 14 games over .500 since they were 54-40 thru 94 contests in July ‘05. The Nats have won four straight and would match their season-best win streak with a victory tonight. A win would also clinch the series; Washington is 13-4-3 in series play this season, including 7-3 in road series.
ZIM CLOSING IN ON 1,000 HITS
Ryan Zimmerman needs just nine hits to reach the 1,000-hit plateau for his career. Since Zim made his debut on September 1, 2005, only two MLB third basemen have posted more hits: David Wright (1,099) and Adrian Beltre (1,021).
In addition, Zimmerman owns the Nationals (‘05-present) mark with 991 hits and will become just the eighth player in Nationals/Expos franchise history to reach 1,000, joining Tim Wallach (1,694), Tim Raines (1,622), Andre Dawson (1,575), Gary Carter (1,427), Jose Vidro (1,280), Vladimir Guerrero (1,215) and Warren Cromartie (1,063).
ESPINOSA HEATING UP
Four games into this Interleague road trip, Danny Espinosa is 5-for-15 (.333) with four doubles, three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases. Furthermore, in his last 10 games, Espinosa is batting .297 (11-for-37) with three walks, five doubles, a triple, four RBI, and seven runs scored.
All of Saturday’s stories, as you might expect following last night’s performances from Washington’s most celebrated young stars, focused on Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Deservedly so, as the former became the first pitcher since Mike Mussina in 2001 to fan 13 Red Sox at Fenway Park, and the latter notched the first three-hit game by a teenager at the historic venue since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.
Their influence was stamped all over the game, from Strasburg opening and closing his performance with a pair of strikeouts to Harper corralling the final out of the game on Adrian Gonzalez’s harmless, shallow fly to center field, probably the easiest defensive chance he had to record all night. But the real story of these Nationals is the quality performances that are flying under the radar, all of which were key in delivering the resounding 7-4 victory Friday night in Boston.
How about Danny Espinosa, inserted at the top of the lineup for his strength against left-handed pitching to face Boston’s own crafty southpaw, Felix Dubront? Espinosa responded by powering a double high off the top of the Green Monster in his first at-bat. Following a walk and another double in his next two plate appearances, Espinosa’s slash line against lefties sits at .368/.467/.684. Yes, that’s an OPS of 1.151.
Then there’s Ian Desmond, quietly putting together an All-Star caliber first half. He came up with arguably the biggest hit of the entire game on Friday. After Boston had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Nats struck back for a run in the third and had the bases loaded for Adam LaRoche with one out. Dubront whiffed the first baseman on a nasty hook, bringing up Desmond with two outs. He responded with a clutch two-run, two-out double to put Washington ahead for good. In all, 13 of his 28 RBI have come with two outs. That number leads all NL shortstops, as do Desmond’s 16 doubles and 25 extra-base hits.
There was another rookie who put together an impressive game Friday night, as well. That would be Tyler Moore, who was summoned back to the big leagues after largely riding the bench in his first stint, prior to his option back to Syracuse. Starting in left field, with the daunting defensive task of managing the Green Monster behind him, Moore notched a pair of hits, including a double, and scored twice out of the eight spot in the lineup.
Then there was the veteran, Xavier Nady, who rounded out a game full of great pitching and clutch hitting with what may be the Nationals defensive play of the year to date. Playing right field in a tricky and unfamiliar ballpark, he ranged back on a shot by Adrian Gonzalez and crashed into the short wall in front of the Nationals bullpen, snagging the ball in his mitt just as he collided with the barrier to rob the Sox slugger of a home run.
Finally, there was Tyler Clippard, who found himself in a save situation with the lead trimmed to 7-4 in the ninth and the heart of the Boston lineup coming up. He induced harmless flyouts from Dustin Pedroia and the aforementioned Gonzalez to lock down his sixth consecutive save. He has pitched 5.1 innings of no-hit ball over those six chances, walking just one and striking out six.
So while Strasburg and Harper are understandably getting the lion’s share of attention from Friday’s triumph, the Nationals are sitting at 10 games over .500 at 33-23 because of a true team effort.