Escobar turns in third five-hit game

Escobar turns in third five-hit game

WASHINGTON -- Entering this season, Yunel Escobar had played 1,074 Major League games over eight seasons without ever recording five hits in a single contest.

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Only 61 games into his tenure with the Nationals, Escobar has accomplished the feat three times, joining an exclusive club in the process. By going 5-for-5 is a 5-3 loss to the Rays on Thursday night, he became the 20th player since 1914 to put together at least three five-hit games in the same season. Escobar also went 5-for-5 on May 4 against the Marlins and May 11 against the D-backs.

"It's just the approach he's got," manager Matt Williams said. "Middle of the diamond, short swing, stays on the baseball, swings at strikes. All those things combined allow him to get games like that. So he's had a good season. The middle of the diamond is key. He can stay inside the baseball and line it up the middle or the other way."

Over the three previous seasons, Escobar hit a combined .256/.318/.350 for the Blue Jays and Rays, but the Nationals thought highly enough of him to give up dependable reliever Tyler Clippard in a trade with the A's in January. Escobar has responded with a .331/.382/.411 line through Thursday.

Through an interpreter, Escobar attributed his success to an offseason of hard work, as well as using the whole field more, as opposed to being pull-heavy.

Escobar certainly sprayed the ball around on Thursday. He singled to right in the first inning, singled to right-center in the second, doubled to left in the fifth, singled to center in the seventh and finally singled to right-center with two outs in the ninth.

That made him only the third man this millennium with three five-hit games in a season, joining the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (2014) and the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki (2004), who is one of only four players to collect five hits four times in one year. The others are Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1922), Stan Musial (1948) and Tony Gwynn (1993).

Meanwhile, the Nats have accounted for five of the nine five-hit games in the Majors this season, with Denard Span reaching the mark on April 28 and Danny Espinosa on Tuesday.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.