|Danny Espinosa is congratulated by Laynce Nix on his two-run homer. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Washington Nationals rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa has really been struggling, hitting just .128/.255/.310 in the month of May. In his first two at bats, hitting right-handed, be drove a ball to the track and scorched a line drive, but both times the ball fell into center fielder Andrew McCutchen's glove.
What do they say about the third time being the charm?
On his third at bat, in a game tied at two in the seventh inning, Espinosa took the first pitch he saw from Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Jose Ascanio into the Nats bullpen in right field, driving home two runs and delivering the Nats their 20th win of the season. He did so left-handed, where he's only hitting .175 this season.
Espinosa's fifth home run of the season made a winner out of Cole Kimball for the first time in the Majors, pitching for the third day in a row since his recall. Kimball unfortunately could not strand the runner he inherited from starter John Lannan, as McCutchen tripled home Ronny Cedeno, who had reached via walk from Lannan earlier in the inning. But Kimball stranded McCutchen on third to end the inning before Espinosa's heroics.
All that was left was for Drew Storen to do what he does, and he did it once again, completing his 21st consecutive scoreless inning and earning his ninth save of the season. Storen gave up an earned run on opening day and has not been scored upon since.
|Drew Storen delivers in his ninth save and 21st consecutive scoreless outing. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Jerry Hairston also homered, his second of the season, off Pirates starter Paul Maholm in the fifth inning.
Lannan was not particularly effective though he only allowed two earned runs, especially considering one scored after he left the game. He gave up seven hits and four walks in his 6 1/3 innings. But he had some good defense behind him, got a ground ball double play when he needed it the most, and made the pitches when he had to.
"Sometimes that's the way it's gonna be," manager Jim Riggleman said about Lannan's performance. "You're not gonna have your good stuff, you're not gonna be sharp, but you've just got to battle through it and that's what he did."
"[Lannan] did a great job, he kinda found it there in about the sixth, he really went out and had a clean inning and then the lead off walk did him in there with Cedeno. He struggled, first guy [every inning] was getting on and not throwing first-pitch strikes, but he was battling out of it and we played good defense behind him."
It helped that the Pirates ran themselves out of a big inning in the fourth.
Brandon Wood walked on four pitches to lead off, then tried to go to third on Chris Snyder's single to center field. Roger Bernadina made a strong throw -- but up the third base line a little -- and Jerry Hairston made a great play to catch the throw and get back to the bag to put the tag on. Wood was out easily, breaking the old baseball code about not making the first out of the inning at third base.
Later that inning, Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm couldn't get a bunt attempt down on a squeeze play, and Snyder was caught stealing home on a run-down, catcher to third back to the pitcher.
The Nationals once again sit on the precipice of .500, one game below entering Tuesday's day game with the Pirates. They go right back out on the road for eight games after closing with the Pirates, so the Nats should make hay where they can.
|Another "Curly W" in the books. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
THE GOOD: Espinosa hit the ball hard all three of his at bats. His first at bat he took a ball to the track in left center that would have been five rows deep at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Perhaps he's starting to come out of his slump that dropped his average below .200.
THE BAD: Lannan survived and managed to keep runs off the board, but 11 base runners in 6 1/3 on most nights is going to get your team killed. Lannan's BB rate keeps going up, not a good sign for a guy that lives on the edge as it is.
THE UGLY: Adam LaRoche was 0-for-4 and took some really feeble swings striking out twice. His average is down to .182/.306/.286 for the season and is hitless in his last four games and hasn't had an extra-base hit since hew doubled May 5.
THE STATS: Six hits, three walks, nine strikeouts. 1-for-3 with RISP, four LOB, one GIDP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 1:05 pm against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nats Park. Jordan Zimmermann (2-4, 4.13) takes on Charlie Morton (4-1, 3.13).
|Congrats to Cole Kimball on his first win in the Major Leagues. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|