Playing the percentages, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle pulled starting left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 2-2 game.
Espinosa, switching over to bat left-handed, saw the move being made and was pumped up to get his shot. He jumped on Ascanio’s first offering and deposited the fast ball deep in the right field bullpen for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead.
“I was ready,” Espinosa said. “I know they are going to bring a righty in because of my struggles left-handed. That put some fuel in me. I was just happy to come through.”
Veteran third baseman Jerry Hairston, Jr., has seen that “fuel” in his teammates.
“We have a lot of guys that have a little attitude and have a little swagger,” Hairston said. “You ask Danny, you know he felt a little embarrassed. But, guess what, if I am the manager of their team, he is hitting left-handed. That was the right move.
“Hopefully, (Danny) starts to get going from the left side. I know it has been a struggle for him. He is a switch-hitter, so sometimes you go through struggles.”
Espinosa said even though he recorded two outs to center field in his first two at-bats of the game, he was feeling good about the hard contact.
“I felt comfortable up there today,” Espinosa said. “In the last at-bat, I was going up there trying to have a good at-bat. That first pitch, I thought it was a good one to swing at, and I was just able to put good wood on it.”
Espinosa says the focus during his recent hitting slump has been all about doing exactly what he did to win the game Monday: be ready for the ball.
“I have been so late,” Espinosa said. “It has been making my swing long. When you are late, you subconsciously feel that you got to do more and your swing gets long. So, it was all about getting my timing right and my leg kick in the right position. I have been working on it. I finally got a little bit of a result today.”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said Espinosa battled all night at the plate, getting close to some big hits with a fly out and line out to center field. That is why Riggleman was so pleased to see Espinosa come through in the clutch.
“He gave us a great at bat there,” Riggleman said. “He got one in the air to right field. He has got power, so that can happen. (Espinosa) has really worked hard. He has battled through this little struggle hitting left-handed. He has continued to play great defense while he is going through it.”