Continued from page 1

“We saw a new Danny in spring training,” LaRoche said. “There’s no question, no doubt about it. His mindset, his approach. You could see it from day one in the spring. You knew he was going to enjoy every day, enjoy every at-bat, just go up there with a relaxed approach. He worked hard at it. I think you’re going to see a lot of at-bats like that.”

Espinosa can play short as well as second. After his ninth-inning plate appearance, he stayed in the game at second and Rendon moved to third. Williams has said several times that Espinosa is going to get plenty of chances. They may not come daily, but they will come.

When they do, Espinosa vows to be ready whether it is as a starter or off the bench. A walk, as he showed Monday, is as good as hit. His approach may have been as impressive as the actual execution. He didn’t go up to try and put the Nats ahead with a blast. He went up with the idea to get on somehow, to extend the inning, to give Span a chance.

“I’m taking at-bats as they come,” Espinosa said. “I got my number called, I was ready, I was prepared. I felt good going into my at-bat.”

Facing Mets closer Bobby Parnell, Espinosa fell behind 1-2. He took a ball. He fouled one off. He laid off a knuckle curve in the dirt. He fouled off one more and then watched a fastball go by for ball four. He jogged to first. Ian Desmond, who reached on a single, headed for second. Span stepped in and doubled on the first pitch to score Desmond with the tying run.

After the game, Nats broadcaster F.P. Santangelo and Espinosa’s fellow utilityman Kevin Frandsen heaped praise on Espinosa for laying off the pitches he let go by and fouling off the others. They would have been out, they said.

Espinosa took it all with a smile. Though he’s not at all used to a pinch-hitting role, he said he was calm at the plate and determined to control the at-bat.

“It was a thing where definitely I felt comfortable,” Espinosa said. “I felt pretty relaxed. I stayed in my routine, stuck with what I wanted to do. I tried to battle. I got two strikes but tried to make him keep coming to me rather than chasing one, make him throw a strike. I didn’t want it to be rushed, didn’t want to feel uncomfortable.

“I ended up drawing a walk. I was pleased with my at-bat.”

As well he should have been.