Defensive gems by Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond not enough for Nationals
Danny Espinosa has played second base as a professional for less than one month, and now he is in the major leagues making plays that few other second basemen can make, plays that drop jaws and steal hits.
The Nationals' 4-1 loss this afternoon was a game until the end - the Nationals were able to send two batters to the plate as the tying run in the ninth inning. The biggest reason was Espinosa's remarkable, bases-loaded play in the fifth inning.
With two outs, Logan Morrison rolled a ball up the middle, a sure single off the bat, he assumed. But Espinosa shuffled to his right, dove so his body was parallel with the ground and made an absurd backhanded stop.
"You see highlight films and all that stuff," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "I don't know how much further anybody can go to get a ball."
Espinosa jumped to his feet and, with the arm General Manager Mike Rizzo described as "a cannon," rifled to first for the out. Morrison was stunned -- "that really [stunk]," he said later. The Nationals were out of the inning.
"That," pitcher Jason Marquis said, "was a hell of a play."
The Nationals provided an encore in the next inning. After Hanley Ramirez led off the sixth with a single, Dan Uggla ripped a hard grounder to third. The ball took an abrupt hop and kicked up off Ryan Zimmerman's glove. Zimmerman stayed with it, leaping to grab the ball and then firing a side-armed throw across the diamond to Adam Dunn.
The play was not over. Shortstop Ian Desmond assumed that Ramirez would be running with the 3-1 pitch. "Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him not stop at second," Desmond said. "I just knew to run to third. That's the way they teach you to do it."
Desmond scurried to third, and Dunn rifled back across the diamond to Desmond, a perfect throw. Desmond blocked the bag with one foot and slapped a tag on Ramirez for a slick, unconventional 5-3-6 double play.
Dunn's first base defense hasn't exactly set the world on fire, as two errors Saturday - one grounder he kicked away, one through the wickets - showed again. But one thing he can do is throw, and on the double play it paid off.
"That's the quarterback in him," Desmond said. "He's actually got a really good arm and a really accurate arm. Beside one play, I can't remember him making a bad throw."
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