WASHINGTON -- Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa had a game to remember in a 13-4 trouncing of the Reds on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
As manager Dusty Baker put it, Espinosa had a night that most players would wish for in a month. Espinosa hit two home runs, including his second career grand slam, and tallied seven RBIs, which prompted two curtain calls.
With Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan on the mound and the bases loaded in the third inning, Espinosa swung at a 2-2 pitch and hit the ball into the left-field seats for his 14th home run of the year.
An inning later with two on, Espinosa put himself in the franchise record books after hitting his second home run into the left-field bullpen off right-hander Josh Smith. Espinosa became the first player in Nationals history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate and the first in franchise history to do it since Geoff Blum pulled the trick in 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"That's quite a feat," Baker said. "You don't see that very often. That's quite a night. He has been playing lights out and getting some hits for us."
Espinosa was stoic when talking about his big night.
"I feel good. I just kept [doing] my work, kept grinding. I hoped for the results to show up," Espinosa said. "The curtain calls mean a lot. The fans are enjoying it. As a player you enjoy the fact that the fans are behind you."
Espinosa got off to a slow start to the season, with a .199/.300/.281 line as late as May 25. But Baker stuck with the switch-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop. His confidence in Espinosa paid off during June. Espinosa hit .309 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs for the month.
"I continued to have trust in myself and know I can do it," Espinosa said. "To have the staff behind me, to have Dusty, [bench coach Chris Speier], [hitting coach Rick Schu] and my teammates behind me and encouraging me, it means a lot as a player," Espinosa said.
It's more than the team having Espinosa's back. According to Baker, Espinosa has a work ethic that is second to none. He is one of the first players to get to the ballpark and one of the last to leave.
"He loves to play. He does a lot of studying," Baker said. "... We needed it. It came right on time for us. … He is trying to cut his stroke some and cut down on his swings and misses. He tends to swing too hard sometimes. He doesn't need to. He is a very strong young man."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 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.