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Today's lineups: Bernadina hits second, Harper fifth, protected by Espinosa

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PITTSBURGH — The Nationals just posted the lineup for Thursday’s series finale in Pittsburgh and, as was probably to be expected, there are some changes in it. Not the changes that most Nationals fans were clamoring for, though.

Johnson has inserted left-handed Roger Bernadina into the No. 2 spot in the lineup, playing left field, and moved Bryce Harper down to the No. 5 spot. Much-maligned second baseman Danny Espinosa remains in the lineup and will bat sixth, behind Harper.

Espinosa is in a wicked slump. He knows it, Johnson knows it and at this point I’m pretty certain all of the Nationals’ fans know it. But while Johnson would probably never admit to this, it’s a statement lineup. Espinosa is the Nationals’ second baseman. He’s a guy with the potential to win a Gold Glove at the position and hit 25-30 home runs. He’s struggling right now. Bad. 

But it wasn’t too long ago (almost a year exactly) that the Nationals went through the same thing with shortstop Ian Desmond. Fans wanted Desmond’s head, too. And it wasn’t until maybe the final two months of the 2011 season that Desmond truly evolved into the type of offensive player the Nationals had been expecting him to be. He’s carried that into this season, though, and while Desmond still has room for improvement himself, it’d be difficult to find anyone to argue with the result of the Nationals sticking with him and instilling confidence in him. 

It’s not all that difficult to find the link to that story and what’s going on with Espinosa right now. Johnson said on Wednesday that he’s not an “audition” manager. “I judge talent and I put them in where I think they should be and I expect them to perform at that level,” Johnson said. That’s what he’s doing with Espinosa, who the Nationals have judged to be an exceptional talent. 

It might not be what fans want to hear — and make no mistake Espinosa must show signs of breaking out of the funk he’s in — but it’s the way Johnson operates. 

Here are the full lineups behind Stephen Strasburg and Kevin Correia:

Nationals

Ian Desmond SS
Roger Bernadina LF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Bryce Harper RF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Rick Ankiel CF
Jesus Flores C
Stephen Strasburg P

Pirates

 Jose Tabata RF
Alex Presley LF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Neil Walker 2B
Garrett Jones 1B
Clint Barmes SS
Michael McKenry C
Kevin Correia P

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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