The Washington Times - April 11, 2013, 08:57AM

There has been a lot of talk about the top of the Washington Nationals’ offense.

Denard Span has filled the type of leadoff role exceptionally well (his on-base percentage is .457), Jayson Werth’s power has shown up early. All Bryce Harper’s done is hit close to .400 with four home runs in eight games.

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And there’s been plenty of discussion over how the success at the top is important for the big guys in the middle in Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.

But Wednesday night, it was shortstop Ian Desmond and second baseman Danny Espinosa who were a combined 5-for-8 with three runs, two RBI and four extra-base hits. 

With Desmond coming off of a breakout season and the Nationals hoping that Espinosa will experience his own this season, having the middle infielders producing in the bottom half of the lineup is pivotal to the Nationals’ success.

Teams know what they’re getting with the first five or six guys in the Nationals’ lineup (including Desmond in the No. 6 spot). Six of Desmond’s last seven hits have been for extra bases, including two home runs, and Wednesday night he hit two doubles and a triple.

“Tonight he was outstanding,” said manager Davey Johnson. “He hit the ball hard three times on the button. But that’s Desmond.”

But if Espinosa can take a step forward in offensive consistency this season, along with the catchers producing at an eye-popping rate, it will assure the Nationals of having one of the deepest and most dangerous lineups in the National League.

Espinosa spent a lot of time this winter building up the strength in his shoulders as part of his rehab for a torn left rotator cuff. And when he arrived at spring training he continued working to hone his swing, earning rave reviews from the Nationals’ coaches and officials.

Another aspect of Espinosa’s game has caught his teammates’ attention, though.

“He’s been swinging the bat great this year,” Desmond said. “His attitude is unbelievable. He’s due for a big year this year.”

Espinosa smiled when it was brought up to him that Desmond mentioned his improved attitude. 

“There were certain times last year the frustration would kick in and it would eat me alive,” Espinosa said. “I’d go home and think about it. I couldn’t let anything go. This year I want to go back to having fun like I did in the minor leagues and, not that I took anything for granted, but just to enjoy every second. Go out there and do my best and play hard and things will fall into place.

“I feel good. I just feel comfortable. I feel like I have a better approach. I feel like I’m not trying to do too much.”