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Igniting a much-needed explosion

May 21, 2011, 4:33 AM EDT

US Presswire photo
Danny Espinosa rounds the bases after his second-inning homer.

BALTIMORE — It began, as so many offensive explosions do, with one fantastic at-bat.

When Danny Espinosa battled his way through a 10-pitch marathon against Jake Arrieta in the top of the second Friday night, fouling off five straight pitches before crushing a three-run homer, the Nationals dugout sprung to life.

“It was a big, big at-bat,” teammate Jayson Werth said. “It kind of set the tone for the whole game.”

Did it ever. By night’s end, after you had alternated between watching another home run fly out of Camden Yards while also trying to keep track of how many new club records had been broken during the Nationals’ 17-5 thumping of the Orioles, you couldn’t help but think back to Espinosa’s ice-breaker.

And you couldn’t help but think how that one big at-bat erased all the bad vibes from the previous two days and opened the floodgates for the most-enjoyable game of the season.

What records did the Nationals establish during this onslaught?

– They hit six home runs, most since the franchise arrived in town.
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  1. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - May 21, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    Just heard the Nats scored 17 runs. Did they win?

  2. Jeeves - May 21, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Is this the same Espinosa that a number of people on this site said should be sent down? Granted, his BA is very poor and he has struggled at times, but he still leads the team in RBI's and runs and is second in total bases. And he also has more of all three than either Dunn or Willingham.

  3. Jeeves - May 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Whoops, second in runs scored, not first–although the total of runs scored and ribbies is first. And did I mention the defense!

  4. TimDz - May 21, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    I know his bat is cold, but LaRoche made, by my count, four plays at first that Dunn would not have. The bat will come around…

  5. Will - May 21, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    I agree Jeeves. It's nice to see all those Espinosa haters shut up. The dude is a rookie, who will never hit for average. He'll always bat around .250, because he strikes out too much. He's always been that way. Look at his minor league stats- .270 AVG through 3 seasons.But how many second basemen can hit 20 HR, steal 20 bases, and play fantastic defense?Cano doesn't have the speed or defense.Pedroia doesn't have the power.Brian Roberts is too old. Uggla has awful defense.Perhaps, Rickie Weeks is a good comp for Espinosa, and you might remember that Weeks hit in the .230s in three of his first four seasons. You might also remember that once things starting clicking, Weeks was worth 6.1 WAR last year. If we could get similar production from Espinosa, then I think we'll be very lucky.

  6. Anonymous8 - May 21, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Every player who had more than 1 AB got on base safely by hit or walk except for one….Stares! Also Will and Jeeves, it was 2 guys complaining about sending Espi to AAA and the Anon. Here's what you need to understand about others who had comments, some of them were 100% correct. It is fine to point out the long swing from the left side so long as you realize that Espi was still being productive. It is the same with LaRoche.

  7. Richard - May 21, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    So, over their last three games the Nats are averaging a tad under 6 runs per game … :0

  8. The Great Unwashed - May 21, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    No one is disputing LaRoche's defense, but his lack of offense is now beyond being a slow starter. Either he's injured or he's just not a good hitter. Regardless, I'd keep him batting sixth or seventh for the time being. That won't affect his defense and it'll prevent him from being an automatic out in the heart of the order. If his bat heats up he can always get moved back up.

  9. Mark'd - May 21, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Anon8, agreed with what you said. I read old comments and one said Espinosa is not a MLB player so there were some abrasive comments. The comments on his long lefty swing were accurate but guess what, he was quicker to the ball last night. Also, every player raised their OBPs last night except Stairs and Bixler. Note though that Bixler only had 1 AB.

  10. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    But please note, not even one hit from the two biggest offenders, Laroche and Stairs.

  11. NatinBeantown - May 21, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    Great Unwashed,I'm not defending Laroche's miserable quarter-season at the plate, and perhaps the shoulder is having an effect, but to say "he's just not a good hitter" is silly. Several seasons of consistent quality production is more meaningful than 40 games.The guy is a good all-around player having (thus far) a bad season, and no one knows why. That's all that can be said right now.

  12. phil dunn - May 21, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    No one said Epinosa belonged in the minors. I stated he might need to go back to the minors in another month to get himself straigthened out because his confidence would be destroyed if he continued down the current path. This was even done with Mickey Mantle during his rookie season. No one said Espinosa was not a major leaguer so quit misquoting people and quit judging a player by just one game.

  13. Mark'd - May 21, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Anon, in most normal games where you labor the pitcher and draw 2 walks and make some solid defensive games it is a decent game as it was for LaRoche.Nothing good can be said about Stairs o'fer with 2 bad strikeouts and he was the DH, played no defense and just looks like a miserable 43 year old.

  14. Mark'd - May 21, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Phil Dunn must be feeling guilty. I didn't name you as you didn't say it.

  15. Dave - May 21, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Stares has to go. What's it going to take? Will it be, as somebody said a couple days ago, going 0-for the weekend?

  16. phil dunn - May 21, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    If Laroche is such a consistent hitter, why has he played on at least 5 different teams in his rather short career? (He's been with the Braves twice.). The truth is, he is a terrible hitter the first half of the season and a good one in the last half. Teams don't need a player to start hitting well when they are already out of the pennant race because of his poor first half of the season.

  17. erocks33 - May 21, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Mark Z — can you check something for me that I thought I noticed while watching Espi's great AB last night? I swore that he had finally choked up a little on the bat, especially when he had two strikes on him. I mentioned to my friend that there looked to be some space (albeit a little) between his bottom hand the knob of the bat that hadn't been there in any of his previous AB's all season. He asked what difference it makes and I said this would allow him to have better bat control and would allow him to make better contact, and that he'd be able to foul off more pitches … which he obviously did.Or maybe I was just imagining it.

  18. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Let's face it, Rizzo wanted better defense at first base and he paid way too much for it. Beyond that, I believe he puchased damaged goods, just like he did with Jason Marquis the previous season. Only a fool would believe the damaged shoulder doesn't negatively impact Laroche's plate performance.

  19. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Most if not all of those six home runs would have been long outs or doubles ar Nationals Park. Camden Yards is a hitters paradise.

  20. Eyore - May 21, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Is anyone here ever happy? They set a bunch of offensive records last night and the comments here are mostly focused on the negative? Do any of you actually ENJOY baseball ever?

  21. Manassas Nats Fan - May 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    I would DH Marquis tonight. Go with your best hitter who is not playing the field.

  22. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    "Most if not all of those six home runs would have been long outs or doubles ar Nationals Park. Camden Yards is a hitters paradise."Yeah, substandard effort by the Nats last night. They shoulda beat them 30-3.

  23. Slidell - May 21, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    Yes, while it's true that the fences at Camden Yards are closer than the ones at Nationals Park, they're the same for both teams.

  24. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    Bernadina owes the official scorer and Adam Jones dinner. Without them his night was a wash.

  25. John C. - May 21, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I find it hilarious that so many (not all) commentators come off a 17-5 record-breaking thumping of the Orioles … are unhappy with one thing or another. I'm with Eyore – do any of you actually like baseball? Yes, Stairs and LaRoche didn't show up at the hit parade, and yes, the Orioles didn't play well. But the Nationals DID play well, and took advantage of opportunities. and HELLO: 17 runs? 19 hits? 2 triples? 6 home runs? Five innings of shutout relief from the back end of the bullpen? No, the runs don't carry over into today's game. But not scoring runs wouldn't "save" runs for today's game either. I for one thoroughly enjoyed the game. In honor of the occasion I will let Stairs finish the weekend at DH before calling for his release.

  26. Les in NC - May 21, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    I agree John. Let's let Stares finish the weekend as the DH, then give him a nice parting gift.

  27. BinM - May 21, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Haters are gonna hate, and the grumps & cranks are going to nitpick, regardless of a single game outcome. The team found their bats lats night, and broke out a horrific run-scoring slump – Hurrah! For me, the glass is half-full, and i'm confident that there is more in the fridge.

  28. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    I notice w/ interest that The Joker is nowhere to be found this morning…..

  29. TimDz - May 21, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    As I said on Friday, if Stairs goes 0 for the weekend, he gets DFA'd and most likely retires…

  30. Richard - May 21, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Have to note that Marquis' first inning was kinda funky. Two outs recorded and then a dribler, a bloop, a ball Bernadina should have caught that the scorekeeper somehow ruled a hit, which would have ended the inning, and then a solid single to center and he's given up three runs. So, in the top of the 5th the score could have been 6 to 2 and going to the bottom of the 5th the score could have been 12 to 2. I guess if I'm Marquis, I'm mad about being pulled.

  31. Anonymous8 - May 21, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    Richard, I saw it the same way. He wasn't getting his sinker down but they still weren't hitting well off of him. Bernadina said after the game he should have caught that ball. That cost Marquis 3 earned runs plus all the extra pitches on his pitch count.

  32. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Suck on that score Poopy McPoop…….and like it!

  33. Anonymous - May 21, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Also Will and Jeeves, it was 2 guys complaining about sending Espi to AAA and the Anon.Well, It sure as bejeesus wasn't me >> **Anon**8<<. I'm the one who said Desmond should get sent down first if that were to happen … Rizzo et al knew going in that Espinosa was a switch-hitter and it would take him some time to adapt to big league pitching. So many here were saying that the guy "looked lost"? I never cared where they put the guy in the lineup as long as he was in the lineup. I still seems like he should be playing shortstop and another decent bat should be brought up or in for second base.He's not even batting in the heart of the lineup … mostly 8,9 with some time leading off yet he has 27 RBI at the 1/4 post. Even if he hits .220 this year and continues to drive in runs at that rate his contribution will be significant. If he can raise that BA and OBP he might just be in the running for ROY along with Ramos.– peric

  34. Cwj - May 21, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Wow what a fun game to watch last night!I think everyone knows Stairs needs to retire (and probably will), so there's really no need to comment on that one.Interesting, Espinosa is on pace for 99 RBI. Werth is on pace to hit 29 HR and now has a .342 OBP.Also, what an awesome bullpen the Nats have built. Go Nats!!!

  35. Dave - May 21, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    I certainly don't want to come off as a hater. Last night was brilliant. The brilliance only highlights Matt Stares' shortcomings.My wife and I were holding our break waiting for a DOUBLE ROOKIE cycle in the same game. I think the ESPN Baseball Today podcast guys would be forced to talk about that if it had happened.Incidentally, my CAPTCHA string was STORS. That's close enough to Stares to convince me that Google thinks I'm right about him.

  36. Feel Wood - May 21, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    If there's one thing all Nats fans and all O's fans should legitimately be able to unite in hatred of, it's the MASN combined broadcast booth. If there's anything that's less than the sum of its parts, this is it. I guess that's why they invented the mute button.

  37. Cwj - May 21, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    I'm not sure I understand the dislike of MASN joined booth. I think it's kinda cool. Basically both broadcast teams compliment the other team. Seems harmless to me.

  38. Dave - May 21, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    I have disliked the combined MASN booth in the past, but it actually worked for me last night. And I am becoming a fan of F.P. Santangelo. A humble ex-big-leaguer, for a change.

  39. natsfan1a - May 22, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    FP is growing on me, too. The mixed broadcast, not so much (too much double-switching :-)).

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