The last time the Washington Nationals traveled to Baltimore for a series with the Orioles at Camden Yards in May of 2011, the Nats were coming off a back-to-back shutout losses to the New York Mets in Citi Field. After the second-straight loss then-manager Jim Riggleman told MASN hosts Bob Carpenter and FP Santangelo that the way to get his struggling team's offense going was to "show confidence in them," and let the players know that, "We put this ballclub together. There's not other people who are going to wave a magic wand and somebody else is going to show up. This is our ballclub and this is what we put together and this is what we have confidence in and we've got to turn it around."
Good pitching performances were being squandered at the time, Riggleman explained because the Nationals were, "... not swinging the bats. But you know what?" the manager asked rhetorically, "Somebody's going to pay for this. We're going to start hitting." The Nats went out the next night in the first game of three with the O's in Orioles Park at Camden Yards and scored 17 runs on 19 hits in a 17-5 win in which the Nats connected for two triples and six home runs. The hot bats didn't last, however, as the Nationals dropped the next two games against Baltimore and three more on the road in Milwaukee to drop to 21-28 overall.
The 2012 Washington Nationals are in Baltimore tonight to take on the Orioles after taking two of three from the O's AL East rivals from Tampa Bay. After dropping the series opener with the Rays, the Nats took two-straight to finish 2-4 in a quick homestand which saw them get swept by the New York Yankees in last weekend's three-game set. After that series, current Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters that he had to get third baseman Ryan Zimmerman going and talked about sitting down with the 27-year-old three-hole-hitter to see exactly what was causing the eight-year veteran's offensive issues.
"We need to get Zim in a happy place," Johnson said. "He knows he's the leader of this ballclub and he wants to do it," Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro earlier this week, "and nobody presses and pressures themselves harder than he does, so I'm confident that he's going to put it together and turn it on and when he does some team and some pitcher is going to pay for it." Zimmerman was 1 for 10 in the last series against the Rays before he singled to right and scored the fifth and final run in his fourth at bat in last night's 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. In his career, the right-handed hitting and throwing infielder is 19 for 57 (.333/.415/.526) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs in Baltimore. Will a return to Camden Yards get Zim going? In his last trip there Zimmerman was 4 for 11 in three-straight losses to the O's in late June 2010.
The Nationals are also hoping Danny Espinosa can turn things around after last night's 2 for 4, two double performance. The switch-hitting infielder has hit in eight of his last ten games and he's got a .266/.338/.438 line so far in June after a .232/.318/.432 May and a .205/.300/.269 March/April. Espinosa told reporters after last night's win, as MASN's Dan Kolko (@MASNKolko) reported on Twitter, that he doesn't know that all managers would have stuck with him this long into a tough season at the plate (or on the left side of it at least):
Espinosa: "I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t have stuck with me that long, so it feels awesome to know that Davey’s got my back." #Nats— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) June 22, 2012
Davey Johnson told reporters after Espinosa's big game last night that he's stuck with the infielder because he knows what the second baseman is capable of doing. "I've been on him some times," the manager explained, "Because I have so many high expectations for him and his ability and especially left-handed. His swing is fine. Just some of his thought process that goes into it... those are adjusments you make as a young player. Adjusting to what they're doing, to where they perceive your weaknesses are. That's part of the growing pains of becoming a real good big league ballplayer."
"Sometimes it just takes a little time" Johnson said referring to Espinosa's continued development, "Patience. You know he has the talent and the ability and you just try not to put too much pressure on him, from you or me or anybody else. Everybody that ever sees him play realizes what kind of talent he is, so, he's just going through some rough times and he'll be fine."
Both Zimmerman and Espinosa are in tonight's lineup for the first game of three with the Orioles, which starts at 7:05 pm EDT in Baltimore:
#Nationals lineup at BAL - Lombardozzi 7, Harper 8, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Morse DH, Desmond 6, Espinosa 4, Bernadina 9, Flores 2 - Zimm P— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) June 22, 2012