Leading off didn't put added pressure on Espinosa

On Saturday, Danny Espinosa was out of the lineup after laboring through a 3-for-18 home stand.

Then in the late innings, with the game on the line, Espinosa was summoned for a key pinch-hitting appearance. He lined the ball hard, but right at outfielder Xavier Avery for the out.

Then Sunday, Espinosa was back in the lineup - and where else but leading off for the first time this season.

He struck out twice, but also had a well-hit double and huge two-run homer to put the game on ice in a 9-3 victory over the Orioles.

Could this be the game or weekend where Espinosa turns a corner and becomes more consistent at the plate?

Espinosa said it wasn't just Sunday. He started feeling good a couple of weeks ago. His numbers are up the last two weeks, hitting .255 with four doubles, three homers and seven RBIs the past 12 games.

"I felt good," Espinosa said. "I know people were worried about my hitting. The Cincinnati series and the other series, I felt good. I felt like I was taking good swings. I felt like I had a good approach to the ball."

Espinosa said the at-bat Saturday where Avery was positioned perfectly to catch his scorching liner is a part of baseball. The strikeouts hurt, of course, but he won't let an at-bat where he made good contact and produced an out go in that same category.

"It happens sometimes when you hit the ball hard," Espinosa said. "I had an at-bat (Saturday) where I pinch hit. I thought I hit a hard line drive right there. The Sunday (at-bat, I was hitting) left-handed and I hit another hard ball right up the middle. So what can you do about that? You can't do anything ... about that.

"It is just one of those things. I go up there and I am looking to hit the ball hard and I make good contact. That is all you can do. Once the ball leaves your bat, once the ball leaves your hand, this is one of those games where it is out of your control after that."

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the strikeouts concern him with Espinosa, but his defense and work ethic at the plate sustain his confidence in the 25-year old. That keeps him on the field with a chance to get back into a rhythm.

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