May 27, 2014, 12:18 PM EDT
Espinosa continues to struggle – Much of the reason the Nationals have been so bad offensively in May has been due to injuries. Missing Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper is enough to make any team start struggling at the plate. But adding to their troubles have been players slumping who were initially off to great starts to 2014. Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa have all gone cold at an inopportune time for the Nationals.
Espinosa, in particular, is really struggling. In the month of May, he is .123/.179/.260 and has seen his overall batting average dip to .209, just a few ticks above the Mendoza Line. Matt Williams talked about Espinosa being too aggressive before Monday’s game and then saw his second baseman go 0-for-2 and only reach base on a hit-by-pitch.
Williams even replaced him with a pinch-hitting Kevin Frandsen with two outs in the ninth. I asked Williams the reasoning behind it and he correctly noted Espinosa was 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts against Marlins closer Steve Cishek. Frandsen, however, had never faced the submarine right-hander before (despite playing for the Phillies, which is weird). Neither would seem good options for the situation, but it shows Williams’ level of confidence in Espinosa at the moment.
Fister and LaRoche making an impact – I wrote this morning how the Nationals getting guys back from the disabled list hasn’t paid immediate dividends quite yet, at least on offense. There is evidence, however, that both Doug Fister and Adam LaRoche are already helping their team since returning from the disabled list.
Fister has arguably been the Nats’ best starting pitcher in the month of May. Though Strasburg’s ERA (2.62) is lower than the veteran’s (3.42), the Nationals are 3-1 in games Fister’s started. They have won each of his last three outings, which is quite impressive given their offense has been arguably the worst in baseball over the last month. One thing to watch, though, is how many home runs Fister is allowing. He’s already surrendered five, placing him second on the Nationals. Five home runs in four starts is a lot.
LaRoche has only been back two games and he has already hit a home run. He has hits in each of his outings since returning, as well. All of this is an excellent sign for the first baseman who has long been established as a streaky hitter. It appears, at least so far, that his DL stint did not cool his bat.
Injury updates – The Nationals are getting healthier, but there still remain three big names on their disabled list. Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Bryce Harper will all continue their rehabs this week, and we could find out more about Zimmerman and Gonzalez’ timelines to return. I know, we’ve been saying that for a while, but it could actually happen this week.
Zimmerman will start taking swings in the batting cage to test his fractured right thumb. The Nationals are wary of how the finger will react to the impact and vibrations of a baseball bat. If all goes well with that step over the next week, it sounds like they will have a much better idea as to his return date.
Gonzalez will throw from 120 feet before Tuesday’s game against the Marlins to test his inflamed left shoulder. From there the Nationals may be able to set up a bullpen session for him. Once he feels good enough to throw a bullpen, and if he completes it with no discomfort, a big step forward will be taken. Gonzalez can then set himself up to return to the mound, whether it’s in Washington or in a minor league rehab situation.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Denard Span 5/20 vs. Reds – 5 for 5, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB
Pitching game of the week: Doug Fister 5/25 vs. Pirates – 5.1 IP, ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 4 SO, HR, 83 pitches, 57 strikes
Quote of the week:
Denard Span on the Nationals’ injuries this season:
There’s no question we want to have those guys back. But once 7 o’clock starts, I’m not thinking about that. We’ve got to find a way to win. That’s why there’s a 40-man roster. Guys have got to pull up some slack.
Tweet of the week:
This must have been pretty cool for Bryce:
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) May 23, 2014
MON – 1:35 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (lost, 3-2)
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Treinen)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Zimmermann)
THU – OFF
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers (Strasburg)
SAT – 12:05 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers (Fister)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers (Roark)
NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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