PHOENIX - By no means would it have been time to panic if the Nationals had lost last night’s game to the Diamondbacks.
But, man, after a rough weekend in Oakland, getting swept by the A’s and outscored 21-4 in that three-game set, last night’s 6-5 comeback win over the D-backs sure felt good for the guys in the Nats clubhouse.
“We needed that win,” Danny Espinosa said. “Coming off the series we just came off, I thought we really needed that.”
“Let’s be honest here: This weekend wasn’t fun,” Kevin Frandsen said. “We ran into a really good Oakland team, but we didn’t play our best baseball. We actually played ugly baseball. What we were tonight is how we’ve been all year. We’re resilient. We keep fighting.”
The Nats took a rare early lead, scoring single runs in the first and second innings, but then trailed after three frames. They came back to take a lead, only to then trail again after six.
This Nationals team continues to show its toughness in the late innings, even without three of its top position players in Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche.
Last season, when key players went down, the Nats got minimal production from their bench guys.
This season, the bench guys have come through in a major way.
Espinosa started the season as a reserve infielder, but has gotten pushed into everyday action with Zimmerman’s injury. Espinosa now has six homers on the season (leading the team, believe it or not), with No. 6 leading off the ninth inning last night, tying the game and setting the stage for more dramatics later in the frame.
“Just looking for a good pitch to hit right there,” Espinosa said. “A pitch out over the plate and I was able to drive it.
“I think everyone knows this park. It’s a big park but thin air. Ball goes pretty well. I wasn’t sure about that one. It was kinda low. Everyone seemed to driving the ball today.”
That blast led to screams, fist bumps and slaps on the helmet in the Nats’ dugout, and Arizona closer Addison Reed seemed rattled afterward.
“When Espi leads off the inning, the momentum just shifts,” Frandsen said.
Three batters later, Frandsen shifted the momentum even more, smacking his first homer of the year and just his 15th in eight big league seasons, putting the Nats on top for good.
“I always take it as, every time you go to pinch-hit, it’s for the team, it’s not for you,” Frandsen said. “If you get out and have a good at-bat, it might look bad against your numbers, but you’re trying to get up there for the next guy or put your guys on top. Last year, I started doing that and putting everything in the moment of: This is for each other, this is for my teammates. It makes it a less pressure-packed situation.”
With a few key players injured and the team struggling to play consistently solid ball, the Nats will continue to need guys like Frandsen, Espinosa, Tyler Moore, Scott Hairston and Zach Walters to step up and deliver.
Last night, the bench came up big, resulting in a significant mid-May victory.