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Espinosa powers Nationals’ attack in rout of Phillies

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa does when he hits a home run is nothing close to a trot. Not one to waste time, Espinosa generally rounds the bases at a brisk pace and crosses home plate about 20 seconds after he makes contact.

On his ninth homer of the year, a three-run shot off Cliff Lee that broke open the Washington Nationals' 10-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night, Espinosa made the trip in 17 seconds — perhaps aided by the adrenaline of powering his team to a desperately needed victory.

"He's an electric player," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. "He's a strong kid. His movements are powerful."

And while his ninth blast gave them a 5-0 lead in the third inning, Espinosa's 10th, off a 3-1 fastball to lead off the sixth, reminded the Nationals that they don't have to stop after one burst.

Too many times this season, Washington has gotten to an opposing starter for one outburst and been unable to generate anything in the innings that follow. Too many times, the one flurry hasn't been enough.

"Danny added on for us," Riggleman said. "That kind of gave us a little breathing room."

He wasn't alone in a 13-hit barrage that provided the team's largest margin of victory over the Phillies since baseball returned to Washington. Michael Morse chipped in with a 3-for-5 night that included two RBI, and every member of the starting lineup had at least one hit — including starter Jason Marquis, who improved to 6-2.

The Nationals have beaten the Phillies just 11 times in their past 44 meetings, but they earned this one. The six runs allowed by Lee tied a season-high for the former Cy Young winner, and Washington worked him for three walks. The 10 runs combined against Roy Halladay (on Monday) and Lee were the most by any team back-to-back all season.

"We can hit them," Espinosa said. "They're great pitchers, obviously. But they've had losses before. No one in this game has been perfect. Obviously, they're not going to be on their game every single time. When we have the offense we have, we can take advantage of mistakes."

It was almost as if Espinosa, who took advantage of two of Lee's and one of Halladay's, knew this was coming. "Power comes in bunches," he said somewhat prophetically Monday after his eighth home run tied him for the team lead with outfielders Jayson Werth and Laynce Nix.

He broke that tie very quickly Tuesday night. His 3-for-4 performance raised his average to .217, and his homers catapulted him into the top 10 in the National League. He also has the most by an NL rookie.

"He's a ballplayer, he really is," said Werth, noting Espinosa's pedigree from the same college, Long Beach State, that churned out Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki. "There's not a whole lot you don't like about him."

There was plenty for the Phillies not to like about him Tuesday, starting with the fact that his night helped put the Nationals in position to win just their third series against the Phillies since 2008.

"I don't think the Phillies just think they can roll over us," Espinosa said. "I don't think in [the Phillies'] clubhouse they think, 'Well, this is a week we can just go and roll over these guys.' We've played hard against them, we've played well against them. I can't speak for them, but I wouldn't say they think they can just roll over us.

"If we can take this [Wednesday] and play well like we did the last two days, that could be a major turning point in the season."

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