|Photo by USA Today|
By Michael Huberman
With his team struggling to score runs, and he himself mired in an offensive slump, Nationals’ second baseman Danny Espinosa broke out in a big way on his 26th birthday Thursday, going 2-for-4 with a home run, double, and two RBI in the Nationals’ 8-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
Manager Davey Johnson was certainly pleased with his second baseman’s birthday performance.
“I was really happy for Espi to see him swing the bat good, and I guess he has to have his birthday every day or something,” Johnson said.
The Nationals came into the game losers of four straight, and with his team badly needing a win, Espinosa was one of many Nationals who stood out offensively against Cincinnati.
Espinosa got the scoring started in the second inning when he doubled off the wall in right-center, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Espinosa hit a ball to almost the exact same spot the day before that was caught, but sometimes you get the breaks when it’s your day.
“Yeah I said it was because of my birthday it fell today,” he joked. “But it was nice to see to it fall in. ”
Then in the bottom of the fourth with the Nationals leading 4-0 and Adam LaRoche on second, Espinosa took Bronson Arroyo’s 2-2 sinker over the right field wall, and suddenly the rout was on. It was Espinosa’s second home run of the year, and his first since April 13 against the Atlanta Braves.
After the game, Espinosa was asked if he’d ever had a game like that on his birthday.
“No, I don’t think so, maybe in college.”
Espinosa had two singles last year when he turned 25, but never had a day quite like this.
“I always feel like during the season I typically struggle on my birthday,” Espinosa said. “In the minors I was always hot in the first month and birthday would come around and I'd suck on a big 0-for-4.”
Espinosa’s performance came at a welcome time, as the second baseman entered the game in a major slump. He previously missed four games after injuring his right hand April 14 against Atlanta and was just 2-for-18 (.111) in the five games since his return. Despite his issues at the plate, Espinosa was focused on taking it one at-bat at a time.
“I was just going up there and trying to have a good at-bat, and trying to get a pitch to hit.”
The Nationals came into Thursday’s game having scored just four runs in their past four games, convincing Johnson to tweak his lineup for the second straight game. Espinosa was spared, however, remaining at second base as Johnson wanted to give him time to work through his slump.
“Sometimes, it just takes time before the breaks start to fall your way. Certainly, I’ve not been down on him. He’s played outstanding defense. It was good to see him smiling in the ballgame, even after he made an out,” Johnson said.
For Espinosa, a day off on his birthday from the game he loves would have been no gift.
“I would rather play on my birthday than sit. He never said anything to me, so I was guessing I was going to play today,” he said.
“I enjoy playing every single day, it’s such a fun game, I don’t want to ever sit, I enjoy playing too much.”