Danny Espinosa entered his second at-bat last night 1 for 18 against R.A. Dickey, but he had found a way to change the matchup. Rather than hitting left-handed, he decided to bat right-handed. Espinosa had hit right-handed against Dickey once last season, and he felt it gave him a better chance against the knuckleballer who had bedeviled him.
“I can spread out and make it as simple as I can,” Espinosa said. “His knuckleball cuts a lot. I feel like it’s easier to get extension on it or whatever. I don’t know, it’s not even that – he lets you get extended on it left-handed. I feel right-handers always hit him better, so I was like, well, I might as well try. It’s not like he’s going to throw a curveball at you. I just felt that righties square the ball up more often than lefties did.”
The numbers show that right-handers hit .197 off Dickey compared to .247 by left-handed hitters. But Espinsoa’s plan worked. He ripped a double down the third base line, and then he poked a single to the opposite field.
No matter what Espinosa has tried at the plate lately has worked. In 12 games since the all-star break, Espinosa has changed his season. He’s hitting .362/.392/.553 in the second half, raising his OPS on the season from .683 to .718. He scuffled in the first half from the left side, but that has become a non-issue. He has clobbered the ball from both sides lately, and the loop that slowed down his left-handed stroke has disappeared.
“That’s gone,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “The loop is a result of bad timing. When you can’t get to a ball, that bat flattens out and you get a little loop. You kind of hit it on the upswing. When your timing gets better, the stroke gets better. You’re getting the ball on a more direct line. That’s what he’s been doing for actually about a month. Both sides of the plate now look fairly consistent to me.”
Espinosa has made the adjustment while playing every day and, now, switching from second base to shortstop. Johnson said Espinosa’s hard-charging demeanor helped make the change.
“It’s a tough job, but he’s a very gifted player,” Johnson said. “He’s smart. He’s also stubborn as heck. But that can be a good trait, because I know what stubborn is. I’ve been stubborn my whole career. He’s always serious as a heart attack. He kind of has that Frank Robinson chip on his shoulder. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
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