If anyone was worried the Nationals, after the highs of a three-game sweep over the rival Mets, might suffer from some form of letdown against the Reds, they needed watch only one inning of baseball to have those fears assuaged.
The Nationals jumped out to an early lead behind Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer in the bottom of the first, then rode Danny Espinosa’s historic pair of homers in the third and fourth innings en route to a 13-4 thrashing of an overwhelmed Cincinnati club.
Winners of five straight - and having nearly erased the seven-game losing streak that preceded it - the Nationals are flying high again. And they can thank Espinosa and Zimmerman for the jolts of offense that were supplied tonight to turn their series opener against the Reds into a blowout.
Batting right-handed, Espinosa launched a grand slam off starter Brandon Finnegan in the bottom of the third, earning a curtain call from the crowd of 29,386. One inning later, Espinosa switched to the left side of the plate against reliever Josh Smith and crushed a three-run homer, earning another curtain call.
Espinosa is the first player in club history (2005-present) to homer from both sides of the plate in one game. He’s the first player in franchise history (1969-present) to do it since the Expos’ Geoff Blum in 2001.
And with seven RBIs, Espinosa came up one short of the all-time record by a Washington baseball player, set by the Nationals’ Josh Willingham in 2009 and the Senators’ Mike Epstein in 1970.
That completed a stunning bounce-back month for Espinosa, who entered June sporting a .199 batting average but then proceeded to hit .309 with nine homers, 21 RBIs and a 1.122 OPS over the next 30 days.
Zimmerman’s early home run, his 11th of the season, set the tone for the night and completed a four-run rally after the Reds plated a first-inning run off Gio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez settled in after that shaky start to his evening and struck out nine over six innings. The left-hander did fade in the sixth, giving up three runs to somewhat spoil what was shaping up to be a much-needed strong outing.