- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2015

The dreary, rainy weather that had hovered over Nationals Park for most of the week was gone Friday night. And the Washington Nationals’ offensive funk vanished with it.

With Danny Espinosa leading the way, the Nationals snapped a three-game losing streak and edged the Chicago Cubs, 7-5. It was a relative offensive outburst for a team that was shut out Wednesday night and scored only a single run Thursday.

Drew Storen allowed a run in the ninth, only his third of the season, but held on for the save. 

THE RUNDOWN: For the past week or so, the Nationals‘ lineup has vacillated between bad and awful, sinking into a collective funk that culminated with a stretch of 18 scoreless innings over parts of three games. So the good news Friday was that the bats woke up. Even better: The bottom half of the order did most of the heavy lifting. Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos each went 2 for 4 with a double. Espinosa launched a three-run homer over the visitor’s bullpen in his first at-bat. The Nationals racked up 12 hits. And all of that was enough to bail out Tanner Roark, who was perfect in one trip through the order but gave up three home runs before departing.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Anthony Rizzo hit two home runs in his first three at-bats, so when he made contact again in the eighth, the crowd at Nationals Park held its breath. The ball tailed toward the left-center field gap, and it looked like it might get out. Then Denard Span showed up. He does that sometimes. This catch was especially impressive, as he leaped against the wall and tumbled to the ground, ball in hand and two-run lead preserved. Blake Treinen yelled some variation of “yeah baby!” And Span flipped his mitt in the air and grinned as his face was shown on the jumbotron.

STAR OF THE GAME:Espinosa was sure to draw the short straw when Anthony Rendon came back. He’s only playing now because of Yunel Escobar’s right wrist injury, which is still being evaluated. But he’s been remarkably solid all season, and he really sparked the offense Friday. His three-run homer in the second inning accounted for more runs than the team had scored in the previous 24 innings combined. He followed it up with a ground-rule double of the Justin Upton variety, so named for the former Braves outfielder who helplessly threw his hands up when the ball was stuck under the outfield padding a few years back. Espinosa also made a noteworthy diving tag on a throw from Michael A. Taylor to nab Kris Bryant in the fourth. All-around, a good night for him.

SEE ALSO: Yunel Escobar leaves Nationals’ game with right wrist injury

THE TAKEAWAY: Matt Williams went with an interesting lineup Friday night, hitting Ryan Zimmerman second, Bryce Harper third and Rendon fourth. Before the game, he pointed to Zimmerman’s success in the No. 2 spot and cited a need to simply change things up. So did it work? It’s tough to say. The bottom of the order did most of the damage Friday, while the three aforementioned stars turned in mixed performances. Harper went 1 for 2 with a pair of walks, one of which was intentional. Zimmerman and Rendon each went 1 for 4. I’m curious to see if Williams sticks with this same order tomorrow, or keeps Zimmerman at No. 2. Whatever he decides, this much is clear: it’s better to have options, as he does with Rendon in the lineup, than not.

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