MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Glove-minded Espinosa proving worth with bat

Decisive dinger latest in Nats' second baseman's endless contributions to team

Glove-minded Espinosa proving worth with bat

BALTIMORE -- If the season ended on Saturday, Danny Espinosa would be the Nationals' Comeback Player of the Year.

Before the season, Espinosa was considered an excellent defensive second baseman without much of a bat. But he has proven time and again this season that he is a clutch performer at the plate. During the team's 7-4 victory over the Orioles on Saturday, Espinosa's three-run homer proved to be the game winner.

Down, 4-2, the Nationals came back and scored four runs against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez in the sixth inning. Bryce Harper led off and hit a laser into the right-field stands for his 26th homer of the season and first of his career against the Orioles to make it a one-run game.

Harper's 26th homer of 2015

After Clint Robinson and Wilson Ramos singled, Espinosa hit an 0-1 pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run homer. It was Espinosa's 10th home run, giving him double-digit dingers for the first time since 2012.

"I was looking for a fastball. The first one I fouled off. I was just a tick late," Espinosa said. "The next pitch, he threw a split finger. I said, 'Don't try to do too much. Just get a good pitch to hit.' It turned out to be a lot better than the single. I was happy to help the team right there."

For a guy who was supposed to be a bench player this year, Espinosa has put up solid numbers, hitting .258 with 28 RBIs.

But his numbers don't tell the whole story.

Espinosa is willing to do anything for the team. There he was playing left field after Denard Span left the game on June 7 with back spasms. And there was Espinosa playing first base after Ryan Zimmerman went on the disabled list because of a left foot injury.

Let's not forget that Espinosa is one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball. His backhanded grab of a ball hit by Adam Jones helped the Nationals turn a key double play in the third inning of Saturday's game.

Espinosa's backhanded stop, flip

"He has kept us afloat a little bit. He has played all over the diamond. He has done everything we have asked him to do and then some," manager Matt Williams said. "It says something about his character."

Williams never gave up on Espinosa. It helps Espinosa has a great work ethic and has shown flashes of his talent with the bat.

"I come in every day wanting to play. I look for my name in the lineup," Espinosa said. "The way I can help is continue my routine every single day, go out there, take my batting practice, take my ground balls and do what I do in order to feel that I'm ready for every ballgame."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.