GAME 135 REVIEW: Espinosa Homers in Loss to Bucs

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, September 03, 2010 | , , , | 0 comments »

THE RESULT:  The rest of the 2010 season for the Washington Nationals is going to be about finding parts that will be able to contribute at the major league level next season.  Danny Espinosa is ceratinly off to a good start.

But despite Espinosa going 2-for-4 with his first major league home run and an RBI double, the Nats fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-5, before 19,734 at PNC Park.

The loss drops the Nats record to 57-78 for the season.  The Nationals have lost three straight.

Espinosa, 23 was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse Wednesday when rosters were able to expand, and somewhat lost in the excitement of the brawl and all the aftermath was Espinosa' major league debut. 

He was inserted into the lineup against the Marlins, replacing Adam Dunn in the batting order when things got out of hand.  His first MLB hit was a hard grounder that took a bad hop on second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, bouncing over his head into short right field.  Espinosa hustled the entire way, and earned himself a run-scoring double on the play.

The switch-hitting second baseman followed that performance up Friday night with two more extra-base hits.  Batting right-handed against Pirates left-handed starter Zach Duke (W, 7-12), Espinosa poked a solo home run to the opposite field.  Two innings later, he drove a double to left field batting left-handed against righty reliever Sean Gallagher.

The slick fielder is already major league ready with his glove, so the Nationals hope that he can hit -- and get on base -- enough to battle for the starting second base job next season... and stick there.

Espinsosa's minor league strike out rate was fairly high, but his on base skills are still pretty decent.  In three minor league season, he hit .270/.365/.455, and this season between AA and AAA he hit .268/.337/.464.  He got off to a slow start this season, but thrived once he was moved up to Syracuse, hitting .295/.349/.463 in 108 plate appearances.

When he was called up, he was one of two minor leaguers to reach the 20-20 plateau this season (22 homers, 25 stolen bases), and the power seems to be translating to the bigs.

Unfortunately, Livan Hernandez did not have his best stuff Friday night.  In his first effort since signing a contract for next season, the veteran was pounded for eight earned runs on eight hits and two walks in just 4 1/3 innings.  He dug a hole the Nats just weren't able to dig out of, though they did make a game of it in the end.

THE GOOD:  Other than Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman both had two hits as well.   And Miguel Batista, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett threw 3 2/3 shutout innings to give the bats a chance to get back in it. 

THE BAD:  Ivan Rodriguez.  He went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play during the Nats four-run fourth inning, killing the rally.  He later struck out with another runner in scoring position.

THE UGLY:  Nyjer Morgan.  Just hours after finding out about his eight-game suspension for multiple disciplinary problems, Morgan went 0-for-4 and contributed nothing to the Nationals offense.

THE STATS:  11 Ks, 5 BBs, 2-for-7 with RISP, 7 LOB, 1 GIDP.

NEXT GAME:  Saturday at 7:05 pm.  John Lannan (6-6, 4.95) takes on Paul Maholm (7-13, 5.18).

NATS NOTES:  Nats News Network is heading to Pittsburgh for Saturday and Sunday's games and will file reports and photos from PNC Park.