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Nationals' Espinosa fights through slump

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Shortstop just trying to maintain his focus

Nationals manager Davey Johnson loves to describe his players as grinders. That is the ubiquitous baseball term for someone willing to hit in the batting cage until blisters form on his hands or take extra infield practice hours before game time.

Of course, that approach can go too far sometimes. Case in point is infielder Danny Espinosa, who has been known to obsess over video of his at-bats to find whatever flaw is plaguing his swing. So a recent 1-for-20 skid at the plate was a challenge for a player who sometimes needs to back off.

But Espinosa, playing shortstop with Ian Desmond out a month because of an oblique injury, shook off his mini-slump with one of the most dramatic hits of the season. His three-run home run Saturday night capped a six-run eighth inning and helped Washington to a 10-7 win and eventually three victories in a four-game series against the Miami Marlins. That took the sting out of a rare two-error game in the field.

"I think the errors are uncharacteristic of me," Espinosa said. "I made two stupid errors [Saturday], and I'm not trying to think about those when I'm coming up to bat. I'm trying to let those stay behind me and move on and separate my defense from my offense."

That's far easier said than done, of course. Espinosa's errors were part of why the Marlins were up 6-4 in the eighth inning. And he's not out of the woods yet after catching fire earlier this month. Espinosa was 0-for-2 at the plate on Sunday in a 4-1 win, though he did get hit by a pitch in the second inning and later walked.

"It's tough to step in the box and not think about some runs you let in," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "Again, the way that whole thing worked out [Saturday], to be able to come through with a huge home run like that, you can't say enough about it. And to [Espinosa's] credit, he grinds through it. He's still up there hacking. He doesn't have his head down pouting. He's working in the cage trying to figure it out. He's getting there."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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