Baker not giving up on Espinosa just yet

LOS ANGELES - Shortstop Danny Espinosa has struggled to get on track in the National League Division Series. He is 0-for-5 with a run scored in the first two games of the series.

In Game 1, he struck out his first three times up and then popped up to third base.

In Game 2, Espinosa was hit by a pitch in each of his first two plate appearances, but then struck out in the sixth and eighth innings.

So with five strikeouts in the first two games of the NLDS, manager Dusty Baker was asked if he considered switching shortstops for Game 3.

"No," Baker said Monday morning at the beginning of the pregame media briefing.

But there is some question as to whether or not Stephen Drew should get the shot against right-hander Kenta Maeda. Against right-handed hitters, Drew has hit .276 in 65 games this season. Espinosa hit .212 in 148 games against righties in 2016.

espinosa-gray-at-bat-sidebar.jpgBaker said he is sticking with Espinosa because he does not want to alter the lineup for now.

"Most of us have been through that (kind of slump)," Baker said. "It's really too early to just start making changes, especially if you stuck with us all year long. The guy did have (24) home runs and almost 80 RBIs (72)."

But the skipper did concede that he has met with Espinosa, normal protocol when any player is scuffling.

"Yeah, I've talked to him," Baker said. "I've talked to him throughout the year. I talk to all my guys, especially the guys that are struggling some. I just can't tell you what I talk to them about.

"I mean, if Bryce Harper was struggling, you would have a fit if I took him out. I'm not that kind of manager. I mean, there might be a time when that's possible, but it's not possible yet."

Baker said it's not as simple as looking at statistics with Espinosa. He likes the shortstop's power capabilities, and wants to keep him in there to see if Espinosa can barrel up one or two.

"He's hard to figure," Baker said of Espinosa. "I mean, he's hard to figure because he'll strikeout in succession and then he'll hit two home runs. So how do you know when he's about to hit two home runs and how do you know when he's about to strike out? And if you knew, I wish you would tell me."

Could home cooking play a part in a possible Espinosa resurgence?

Espinosa played college baseball just 28 miles south of Dodger Stadium at Long Beach State. He played high school baseball at nearby Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. Feeling right at home can make a difference, too. Espinosa needs to get comfortable and the Nationals need his bat to contribute.

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