Tuesday night after the Nationals’ victory, Manager Matt Williams said he would “look at” putting Danny Espinosa back in the lineup Wednesday night. Typically when a manager thinks out loud, it means the decision has already been made. But Espinosa’s name was absent from Williams’s lineup card for the fifth straight game.
Williams said multiple infielders faced health issues late Tuesday night, and he anticipated one of them may need a day off Wednesday. Williams declined to name which players were ailing, but first baseman Adam LaRoche was removed in the eighth inning Tuesday night.
“We had some question marks about some guys in the infield,” Williams said. “They feel good today, so that’s the decision. Nothing against Danny. Nothing with regard to Danny in any form or fashion. It was just a question last night of whether guys would be able to post today. But everybody’s good.”
So Espinosa is the odd man out, the first illustration of Williams’s welcome dilemma of fitting nine healthy, everyday players into eight starts. Williams has said he plans to tinker with the Nationals’ lineup daily based on matchups, fatigue and other factors.
And so today seemed to present an ideal chance to give Espinosa a start. Despite his offensive struggles this season, Espinosa has an .826 OPS against left-handed pitchers, behind only Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon among Nationals. Williams was aware of Espinosa’s success, right down to his OPS.
“For me, it means that he sees the ball really well against left-handed pitching,” Williams said. “In that regard, we want to make sure we get him some action in there. It’s hard to argue with the last two days as well. I will get him in games. He will continue to stay sharp. I’ll do my best to do that. I think he’s a wonderful player.”
As Williams pointed out, he chose to keep the Nationals’ lineup intact because it scored 14 runs over the past two days over shuttling in Espinosa. Wednesday night, Espinosa also would have given the Nationals their best defensive infield behind Doug Fister, an extreme groundball pitcher.
“It’s part of the discussion,” Williams said. “But I think that we have to score runs as well. The way it’s set up over the last couple days is good.”