No need for anyone to get Danny Espinosa any birthday gifts. He gave himself the best present he could ask for tonight.
On his 26th birthday, Espinosa delivered two clutch knocks, helping power the Nationals to a much-needed 8-1 win over the Reds.
"I always feel like during the season I typically struggle on my birthday," Espinosa said. "In the minors, I was always hot in the first month, and my birthday would come around and I'd suck on a big 0-for-4."
Not tonight. Tonight, Espinosa broke out of an early-season slump with two extra-base hits - an RBI double to the wall in right-center in the second and a two-run homer to right in the third.
Over his previous five games, Espinosa had been 2-for-18. He hit a fly ball to right-center yesterday that was pretty similar to the one in the second inning tonight, only to see yesterday's drive tracked down on the track by Cardinals center fielder Shane Robinson. Tonight's deep fly to right-center dropped and skipped up against the wall, giving the Nats their first run and Espinosa a bit of a confidence boost.
"It was nice to see it fall in," Espinosa said. "I know (Reds center fielder Shin-Soo) Choo can get after it out there. He can run balls down pretty well. So when I saw it fall in, it was a big sigh of relief. To know that Ian (Desmond) scored and we got the lead early was a good feeling."
As a whole, the Nats pounded out 12 hits tonight and twice as many runs as they had in their last four games combined.
"It was awesome," Espinosa said. "We've been swinging the bats pretty well, I thought, as a team. Just wasn't going in for us. I thought we hit some balls hard. They were making diving plays on broken bats, good plays, but I thought as a team we were doing all right. But it was so nice to see the balls fall in, to score runs. It was fun.
"It takes something like this to get a team going sometimes. Hitting's contagious, everybody knows that. You get a couple guys hot and everybody starts getting on base and it's kind of easier, you've got more holes to hit with and things start going the team's way and things start rolling."
Following the win, the Nats got to celebrate for the first time since Saturday. They got to shake hands on the field, pump music in the clubhouse and share a few smiles, things that had all been absent for the better part of the last week.
"To lose the last four in a row, it's not easy - to know how good we are and to lose four in a row," Espinosa said. "Not just four. There's a couple games we got handed to us. It's not like we were losing and playing good ballgames. We were losing and not playing well. So that's a little tougher. I think when you play a good ballgame and you play a sound ballgame and you lose, you're going to lose. You're not going to have a perfect season so it's going to happen.
"It's a different atmosphere when you win, it's a totally different atmosphere. You try not to get too low when you lose, but when you lose a few in a row you just try to stay as even-keeled as you can. But, yeah, there's not going to be music in here, no one's going to be jumping around. When you win a ballgame, it's a lot more fun."
Birthdays are a lot more fun when they're coupled with three RBIs and a victory, as well.