GAME 152 REVIEW: Espinosa Does It Again

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, September 23, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

THE RESULT:  In his short Major League career thus far, Danny Espinosa has developed a flare for the dramatic.

Tonight, before an announced 12,213 at steamy Nats Park, the 23-year old second baseman hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, leading the Washington Nationals over the Houston Astros 4-3.

The win is the second straight for the Nats over Houston.  Washington came into the series having lost 10 of its last 12 games.

Espinosa added a triple to his 2-for-4 night (with two runs and two RBIs) and Michael Morse slammed a long home run to straight-away center field.  Ten of Espinosa's 16 hits this season have gone for extra bases, including four doubles, one triple and five home runs.

It was a tight game all night, a testament to the two starting pitchers -- Jason Marquis for the Nats and Wandy Rodriguez for the 'Stros.

Marquis had a little bit of a strange evening, as he seems pre-occupied on the mound with anything but pitching.  He noticably squirmed on the hill several times, and had a couple lengthy conversations with catcher Ivan Rodriguez throughout the appearance. 

Despite the quirks, he was effective, limiting the Astros to two earned runs on seven hits, one walk and one hit batter, who -- of course -- scored one of the Houston runs.  He struck out just two batters, which has been consistent in his mini-renaissance since his return from injury.

Rodriguez was almost as good, but Espinosa's triple -- which was awkwardly played by center fielder Jason Bourgeois -- turned into a run when Ian Desmond's infield single was enough to plate Espinosa in the third.  Then, leading off the fourth, Morse took the first pitch of the inning deep to center, where the ball disappeared into the crevasse between the wall and the stands for his 12th homer of the year, just to the left of the batter's eye.

Espinosa's homer heroics were preceded by Justin Maxwell tough at bat against Rodriguez for a walk after fouling two balls off, and a sacrifice by pinch-hitter Alberto Gonzalez.  

After the sacrifice, Houston Manager Brad Mills called upon reliever Jeff Fulchino, and Espinosa greeted the big right-hander rudely, smacking his second pitch into the first row of seats above the out-of-town scoreboard in right center field.

Tyler Clippard, who allowed an inherited runner to score in the top of the inning, got the vulture win, running his record to 11-6.  For the second night in a row, manager Jim Riggleman made an interesting decision with the bullpen.  Joel Peralta was flat-out dealing, having gone 1 1/3 innings of hitless, walkless relief, striking out three of the four batters he faced.

But as he did last night with Drew Storen, Riggleman did not allow Peralta to finish the ninth, again preferring to have Sean Burnett face Geoff Blum.  Blum won the battle tonight, hitting a clean single up the middle.  Instead of getting a right-hander to face the next two righty hitters, Riggleman left Burnett in to finish up, and he did without incident, earning his third save.

It might have gotten the job done, but it was certainly unorthodox.

THE GOOD:  Espinosa.  The more Major League pitches he sees, the quicker he's going to be a very valuable member of this team.

THE BAD:  A night after getting two hits, Roger Bernadina went righ back into his slump, going 0-for-4 with a K.  He looks lost.  He is dramatically overstriding in his swing, and moving his back foot all over the place.

THE UGLY:  Adam Dunn was hit with a pitch in his right elbow in an at bat in the fifth.  He stayed in the game for two more innings before coming out of the game.  He told reporters after the game it was "the worst pain I've ever hand in baseball."  He is day-to-day, but aren't we all.

THE STATS:  7 Ks, 2 BBs, 2-for-4 with RISP, 6 LOB, 0 GIDP.

NEXT GAME:  Thursday v. Houston at 4:35 pm.  Ross Detwiler (0-2, 2.37) takes the hill against Nelson Figueroa (3-2, 3.54).