WASHINGTON — Just because Danny Espinosa has been on a tear at the plate doesn’t mean he’s lost his exceptional defensive ability.
Take Thursday night’s series opener against the New York Mets for example.
In the second inning, the Nationals held a 1-0 lead and New York had one out and a runner on first. The hitter, Travis d’Arnaud, ripped a hard ground ball to Espinosa’s right, and it seemed destined for an infield single, and if it got past Espinosa, it would have likely advanced the lead runner to third. Instead, Espinosa caught up with the ball, and in one motion, turned and rocketed a throw to second to force out the lead runner.
Then just one inning later, the Nationals faced an identical situation: a runner on first, one out and the Nationals nursing a 1-0 lead. Yoenis Cespedes smacked a hard grounder up the middle, and Espinosa seemingly had no chance to catch up with it. His read was spot-on and his reaction was even better, and sure enough the speedy shortstop got to the ball in time. He laid out, made the stop, then flipped the ball over to Daniel Murphy at second base for a force out of the lead runner.
It wasn’t enough to turn the double play on the speedy Cespedes, but it put the Mets in a two-out hole with a man on first — a much preferred situation for the Nationals than the two-on, one-out scenario it seemed Washington was facing. Murphy literally applauded Espinosa’s play.
In just two innings, Espinosa stole two runners from the Mets by making plays he had no business making. When people rave about his defense, this is what they’re talking about.