Throughout his season-long struggles, and especially this month, it seems like Ryan Zimmerman perpetually has found himself behind in the count, often 0-2, before making an out.
So when Zimmerman finally found himself in an advantageous situation tonight - ahead in the count, 2-0, with two on in the bottom of the first - he made sure to make the most of it.
And when Danny Espinosa found himself at the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, he did the same thing he’s been doing all month long: He crushed the ball over the fence.
Zimmerman’s three-run homer to center field highlighted the Nationals’ four-run first inning against the Reds. Espinosa’s grand slam accounted for all the runs in a four-run third, leaving the Nats with a commanding 8-1 lead.
Zimmerman entered tonight’s series opener batting a paltry .141 over his last 17 games, with 24 strikeouts and only three walks. All too often, he has come up to bat in big spots, only to fall behind in the count and be forced to expand the strike zone, leading to abysmal numbers with runners in scoring position (10-for-62 entering tonight’s game).
But the veteran first baseman managed to get himself in a good hitter’s count in each of his first two at-bats tonight. He homered the first time off Brandon Finnegan, then singled on a 1-0 pitch his next time up, loading the bases in the bottom of the third.
That set the stage for Espinosa, who crushed a 2-2 pitch from Finnegan over the left field bullpen for the second grand slam of his career, his 14th home run of the season.
Eight of those homers have come in June alone, a breakthrough month for the previously struggling shortstop. Since June 1, Espinosa is now hitting .304 with eight homers, 18 RBIs, a .417 on-base percentage and 1.088 OPS.
Update: Holy cow, Espinosa did it again. He followed up his grand slam with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth. Yes, that’s seven RBIs in two innings. Not to mention two curtain calls in two innings. How often do you see that? And Espinosa hit one homer a piece from each side of the plate. He’s the first player in Nats history to do that, the first in franchise history to do it since the Expos’ Geoff Blum in 2001. Not bad. Not bad at all. Oh, the Nats lead 13-4 in the sixth inning.
Update II: That’ll do it. Nats win 13-4. Espinosa came up to bat one more time, with nobody on base, and roped a comebacker off reliever Michael Lorenzen, who still made the play. So Danny ends the night with two homers and seven RBIs. The Nats, however, have won five straight, nearly making up for their seven-game losing streak that preceded this.