Espinosa driving force to Nationals’ recent upswing

One of the many reasons why the Nationals have been able to maintain consistency throughout the season is the team’s ability to replace starters in the field and not lose momentum.

Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Wilson Ramos and others have gone down to injury and have had to be replaced quickly with very little dropoff.

Now, without All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond for what will likely be a month, Danny Espinosa will have to switch from second base to shortstop for at least 30 games.

Defensively, Espinosa has played nine games at shortstop this season, including eight starts, and committed one error. His fielding percentage in that small sample size is .973, just above the league average of .972. Pretty amazing considering he hasn’t played the position since the minor leagues for more than a week.

Offensively, many fans and pundits worried about Espinosa and his hitting from the left side. But as manager Davey Johnson recently pointed out, Espinosa started really raking the ball and getting results in the series finale at Miami on July 16.

Since that game, Espinosa is riding a career-best 11-game hitting streak, batting .432 (19-44) with five doubles, one triple, two homers, seven RBIs, two walks and one stolen base. He now has 26 doubles and nine homers on the season.

There is a lot less chatter about Espinosa hitting from the left side now, and even less talk about whether the natural shortstop can go back to his old position without a hitch.

More of the talk is about the Nationals playing good baseball and tight defense. That is because guys like Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi know what they are doing on the field and the Nationals are not skipping a beat.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want Desmond back. They do. Getting Werth and Desmond back healthy for the final month and two weeks of the season will be critical to shutting down the National League East race.

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