Danny Espinosa, in 1,270 major league at-bats, has produced 44 home runs. With his speed, however, he has resorted to another skill during the National League Division Series: his ability to drop a bunt down the line and reach base.
In three straight playoff games, and in a mini-slump attributed to over-aggressiveness, the Nationals power-hitting second baseman has attempted a bunt. It’s not anything called for from the bench, but with only one hit in nine at-bats, Espinoa is trying to spark something.
“He’s trying to get on base, trying to make something happen,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “That always has been a weapon in his arsenal. He’s always, coming up the minor leagues, been a good bunter, bunting for a base hit. He had one the other day if the umpire got it right.”
During the regular season, he laid down three sacrifices bunts and five the previous season. He had, however, only six bunt hits this season and 10 last year. In Game 1, Espinosa dropped down a bunt against Mitchell Boggs with a runner on that, on replay, he beat out.
In Game 2, he attempted another to lead off the fourth inning while trailing 5-1 and drawing a walk in his first at-bat. And on Wednesday, after Ian Desmond reached on a single against Chris Carpenter in the second inning trailing 4-0, Espinosa tried it again and moved Desmond to second base.
Espinosa and the Nationals both insist the second baseman, whose power was sapped with a shoulder injury a month ago, is healthy. Johnson has attributed Espinosa’s current slump at the plate to being overly aggressive. He hit 17 home runs this season.
“We don’t give him a bunt for a base hit sign,” Johnson said. “I have one but he hasn’t been getting it.”