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Ryan Zimmerman hits the ball twice on one hit, Danny Espinosa stands out at third

Ryan Zimmerman follows through after hitting a single that would score shortstop Ian Desmond in the seventh inning. (Toni Sandys/The Washington Post)

For a guy leading his team in runs batted in, Ryan Zimmerman is not hitting the ball particularly well. He’s squared the ball up well at a few key moments over the past week, but is hitting .184 this season with 10 strikeouts, second most on the Nationals.

Sunday, despite those struggles, Zimmerman was clutch again. He singled up the middle in the bottom of the seventh to build the Nationals’ lead to 4-1, his second two-out RBI of the day.

The pitch was in, and got in on Zimmerman’s hands and missed the barrel. At least, it missed the barrel the first time…

The ball hit the skinny part of Zimmerman’s bat and deflected back up the bat, bouncing off the barrel before it headed to center field.

“At this point, I don’t really care how I get hits,” said Zimmerman, who didn’t realize he had hit the ball twice until he saw the video. “I’ll hit it three times if I have to.”

Meanwhile, Danny Espinosa is manning third base this weekend, with Yunel Escobar out with a groin injury.

Espinosa had never played a professional game at third base before he moved there to replace Escobar on Friday night, though he played innings there during spring training, just in case. He showed some of his middle infield roots Friday, playing a little too far back at times. By Sunday, Espinosa looked comfortable.

“As a defender, he’s about as good as you can get at the major-league level. Second and short obviously,” Zimmerman said. “But he’s athletic enough to play third base. With the arm he has and the instincts he has, I don’t think any of us were really surprised to see him excel over there as well.”

In the third inning, Cesar Hernandez tried to bunt for a base hit, and sent the ball Espinosa’s way. Espinosa charged and threw, somehow taking his time while on the run, and got Hernandez at first.

In the fourth inning, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis hit a foul popup deep behind third base, and Espinosa chased it, looking over his shoulder. Still retreating, he headed into a slide just before the wall, and caught the ball with his glove in his lap — a play many career third basemen would struggle to make.

 “That was great,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “I know, especially for me, anytime you’re moving somewhere else on the field and look up and chase a popup, it’s tough. To him to have the wherewithal of the wall, the track, everything, to make that play, that was huge. Those are outs that count just the same as every other one but that was a big one right there.”

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