CHICAGO — Danny Espinosa has been struggling offensively since the All-Star break. It’s a statement that’s tough to come to grips with occasionally because even though he’s hitting .172 with a .234 on-base percentage and just one homer since the break, it seems like every ball he hits is hard. Facts are facts, though, and Espinosa will be the first to say he hasn’t been producing at the same torrid pace (at least on the power side) that he was in the first half.
So it was that in the eighth inning of the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Cubs Wednesday night that Espinosa led off the inning with a perfectly placed bunt single.
Espinosa has dropped down just three sacrifice bunts all season and just one since the All-Star break. He has, however, bunted for a hit seven times this year (which leads the Nationals) and has 16 infield hits. He certainly has the ability to do it, and in the minor leagues it was a skill he used occasionally when things weren’t going the way he’d like at the plate. Incorporating it more was part of aconversation Nationals manager Davey Johnson had with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and their second baseman.
“He loves to swing the bat and he is a potent threat with the bat,” Johnson said. “But Rod Carew was a great hitter also and he could bunt .300. Espinosa can do the same thing. And it also makes the defense crowd him more. I think it’s another weapon he needs to explore.”
“They’re going to pitch him tough,” Johnson added. “They realize the threat he poses when he gets in the batter’s box and it’s a weapon, a bunt base hit. I even like him bunting for a base hit in sacrifice situations, but with all the offense and emphasis put on home runs and all that, that’s a weapon I think is a little bit of a lost art.”
– Chien-Ming Wang was out in the visitors bullpen at Wrigley Field early Thursday morning getting his side session in under the watchful eye of pitching coach Steve McCatty. All went well for Wang, who took a no-hitter in the sixth inning Tuesday night in his finest performance as a National, and he is expected to start Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.