If the Nationals were going to give Danny Espinosa a night off, tonight makes as much sense as any time to do it. The Mets have knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound, and the rookie second baseman has an .083 OPS in 12 plate appearances in his career.
But the break for Espinosa, in reality, has probably been a long time coming. He's hitting .198 since the All-Star break, and after looking like he'd turned things around in a series against the Phillies, he's back in a 6-for-34 slump.
"I talked to the staff, and everybody was in agreement (about giving him a day off), moreso than me," Johnson said. "I went to him - he was just getting dressed, it was early - and said, 'Just so you don't come barging in (to my office), I'm giving you a day off. Don't start arguing with me, because I know you want to argue. You're not playing.' "
Espinosa has played every game this season, and he's probably not running a risk of endangering that tonight; Johnson told the second baseman he would try to use him "to win this ballgame" against the Mets. But as much as the Nationals have tried to resist it in the last few weeks, it's looked clear that Espinosa needs a day to unplug mentally.
"He doesn't need a physical change - he's one of the strongest players, maybe pound-for-pound, on the team," Johnson said. "It's nothing. I don't want him thinking he's going to break (Cal) Ripken's record. But he might keep that intact if I use him."