The last time Cliff Lee was at Nationals Park, he pitched a complete game shutout and outdueled Jordan Zimmermann on a night where the Nationals rookie took a perfect game into the seventh inning. Tonight, the Nationals are staging a rare surge of offense with Lee on the mound.
They scratched out two runs early in the third inning against him, loading the bases for Jayson Werth with one out and taking a 2-0 lead after his sacrifice fly and a Michael Morse single. But Danny Espinosa, once again, delivered the big blow, launching a three-run homer into the Phillies' bullpen that put Washington up 5-0. That's the score here through four innings.
Espinosa now leads the team with nine homers, seven of which have come with men on base and five of which have been three-run shots. Because of that, he also leads the team in RBIs with 32. And since we're at the one-third mark of the season tonight, he's on pace for a 27-homer, 96-RBI season at the moment. If he carries that pace through to the end of the season, he'd be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.
He's still only hitting .213, but he's probably due for a hot streak; his batting average on balls in play was only .222 before tonight, and he'd hit homers on a solid 12.9 percent of his fly balls. Those numbers would suggest a breakout is coming. So far tonight, he's helped stake the Nationals to an unlikely lead.
Update: The Phillies came back with a pair of homers to cut the Nationals lead to 5-2, but the Nationals got another blast from - who else? - Espinosa. He launched another fastball from Lee to the Red Porch in center field. In the sixth inning, it's 6-2 Nationals, and Lee just came out of the game to boos from the Phillies fans in attendance.