Espinosa’s at-bat signal of renewed confidence at plate

It was not a start for Danny Espinosa, but his ninth-inning at-bat turned into a positive beginning for a veteran coming off a rough season.

With the Nationals down 5-4, two out and Ian Desmond at first base, Espinosa strode to the plate to face Mets closer Bobby Parnell. Espinosa fought off several two-seam fastballs in an eight-pitch at-bat.

“I am taking at-bats as they come. I got my name ... called,” Espinosa said. “I was ready and I was prepared. I felt good going into that at-bat.”

With the count 3-2, Espinosa induced a walk to keep the rally alive. The count got to 1-2 and Espinosa was able to not fall for a knuckle curve in the dirt. He also fouled off four fastballs during the at-bat.

“I tried to keep the at-bat at my pace,” he said. “Tried to keep from not speeding up, really staying under control with two strikes. Not hitting his pitch. Making him continue to come to me. That is all I was trying to do. Trying to get a good pitch to hit right there.”

Gone were the wild swings that had tormented his difficult 2013. Espinosa stepped out of the box a few times. He measured the at-bat on his pace and not Parnell’s. He showed tremendous patience.

“Pitch to pitch, I am just trying to stay within myself,” he said. “Not trying to do too much, especially with two strikes. (Just) make him throw a strike. Make him come to me. Ended up with a walk and I was pleased with my at-bat.”

Bottom line: He kept his team in the game by extending it one more batter.

Denard Span followed with a run-scoring double to left field and the game was tied, 5-5. The Nationals went on to win in 10 innings 9-7.

“Yeah, it is nice to be the hero but at the same time, I was just trying to extend that at-bat and extend that inning,” Espinosa said. “Get the next person up to bat to be able to score a run. I was happy to see Denard come through and get that hit.”

It had to be special for Espinosa. Last year, with various injuries and plate struggles, he played only 44 games with the Nationals and spent most of the season at Triple-A Syracuse or on the disabled list. Now he is back with the team he played in 318 games with from 2011 to 2012.

“It was definitely cool to see the guys continue to fight and not give up to see everyone just keep grinding,” he said. “We had good at-bats as a team. We were able to pull a victory out. It was awesome to see it happen.”

Manager Matt Williams confirmed we may see more of Espinosa when Anthony Rendon is switched to third base or takes a day off, maybe not in a platoon system, but certainly not strictly a pinch-hitter, especially with his outstanding glove.

If Espinosa can have at-bats like he did Monday to begin the season, he will play even more than what Williams predicted.

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