The Washington Nationals earned a split of their four-game set with the Atlanta Braves. Did you notice that Danny Espinosa went 5 for 14 (.357 AVG) with two doubles and a stolen base in the series with the Nats' NL East rivals?
Espinosa, 27, was 7 for 21 during the six-game homestand, and he's 20 for 73 so far this month, for a .303/.370/.379 line in his last 19 games. That, of course, leaves him with just a .235/.298/.376 line on the year, and there's a bit of chatter about him potentially returning to a bench role once Bryce Harper returns... or potentially getting dealt.
Matt Williams talked Sunday about the hard work the Nats' second baseman has done paying off.
"We've been working a lot," Williams said. "He's been working with [Hitting Coach] Rick [Schu] a lot. He spread out his stance just a little bit, which gives him a little bit better look at the ball and he's becoming more and more comfortable. It was some time ago that he made some changes. He opened up a little bit to see the baseball a little bit better. He's gradually spread out a little bit to allow him a better chance to see it. And I don't know, he had three bunt hits in the series. So that's a weapon for him that he's utilizing if it's given. Staying on the fastball for the double down the line today. He lined out also in the series. So he's seeing it good, which is good for him. He works hard."
Not seeing it so well these days? Or at least not enjoying too much success? Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond finished the four-game series with the Braves by going 0 for 7 with six Ks in the last two games.
Desmond went 5 for 23 with a double and a home run during the homestand, but his rough outing on Sunday convinced his manager he might need a break.
"It's was a long road trip," Williams said of the 10-game trip to San Diego, San Francisco and St. Louis, on which Desmond was 11 for 40 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. "A very tough couple of games against the Astros. And then all the expectations of this series and so guys get mentally tired, so yeah, to answer your question, yeah, he needs a day."
Jayson Werth might get a day to rest too according to Williams. Werth went 2 for 23 with 12 Ks during the six-game homestand. Werth's .216/.301/.324 line so far in June has left him with a .271/.354/.386 line on the year, down from .291/.373/.408 on May 31st.
"We need to look long and hard about [Desmond] and about Jayson," Williams said. "We'll spend a couple of hours on the plane talking about that one tonight."
Will both be in the lineup for the series opener with the Brewers? We'll find out later this afternoon. Until then, links and lots of them... starting... RIGHT NOW!!!
• THE BIG STORY!!!:
• "With catcher Wilson Ramos coming off the disabled list on Thursday and Bryce Harper the following week, perhaps the Nats can soon simply play baseball." - "For the Nationals, the two wins over the Braves could make a world of difference" - Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post
• NATS BEAT:
• "Harper had said previously that he ideally would like somewhere around 7-9 rehab games before returning to the Nats. That still sounds like the plan, in the Nationals' eyes." - "Nationals Pastime: Williams updates Harper rehab, Ramos heading on rehab assignment and more" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
WATCH: Tanner Roark picked up his seventh win of the season on Sunday afternoon: http://t.co/qGmDo5nt1T— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 22, 2014
• "The Nationals have yet to confirm that Harper is starting the rehab assignment Monday." - "Harper ready for rehab assignment" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com: News
• "Ramos played five innings at catcher on Saturday, and he progressed to seven innings on Sunday. In both games, he batted third." - "Nationals Wilson Ramos catches seven innings in second rehab start" - Daniel Popper, nationals.com: News
• "After their 4-1 win on Sunday, the Nats now face the Brewers – owners of the NL’s best record – with a little momentum on their side." - "Nats earn split vs. Braves the hard way" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• "As their production at the plate has slipped some of late and their playing time piled up, Nationals Manager Matt Williams said he wants to give off days to both Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth." - "Matt Williams wants to give off days to Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth" - James Wagner, Washington Post
• "Tanner Roark was solid, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing only one run. In his last nine starts, Roark has allowed two earned runs or less in eight of those games." - "Roark, Zimmerman, Stammen, Espinosa know importance of split against Braves" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com
• "Roark tossed 5 1/3 innings with just a run allowed, four hits, three walks and three strikeouts. He continued his success against the Braves, now boasting a 2.35 ERA in 23 total innings (5 appearances)." - "Nationals score early, split series with Atlanta Braves" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• "But after Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Braves, Zimmerman sounded like a guy that didn’t want to go back to third base." - "Nats’ Zimmerman prefers to play left field" - Bill Ladson, All Nats All the Time
• "Before games, Livan Hernandez makes his way to the indoor batting cages and does something similar to what he did for 17 years in the big leagues: He pitches..." - "Livan Hernandez: The Nationals’ valued batting practice pitcher" - James Wagner, Washington Post
• "Now, we'll see what the Nats can muster on a seven-game road trip that takes place in two cities over six days." - "Nationals Pastime: Back on the road with a jolt of momentum" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
• "Two first-place teams will clash in Milwaukee this week as the Nationals begin a three-game set against the Brewers." - "Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers - June 23, 2014" - Caitlin Swieca, MLB.com Preview
• "Imagine how they would felt traveling to their seven-game road trip to first-place Milwaukee and last-place Chicago if they have been swept by the Braves or lost the series." - "Nationals start a Milwaukee, Chicago road trip feeling confident" - James Wagner, Washington Post
• "Since his return from a broken right thumb on June 3, Ryan Zimmerman has produced a bit of a mixed bag on offense." - "Ryan Zimmerman showing signs of life at plate" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• "The Nationals outscored the Braves just 7-1 in winning the final two games of the series. They struck out 19 times against the Braves starters in those two wins." - "Williams on Roark, Espinosa, Werth, Desmond, beating Atlanta" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com
• "Werth is 4-for-37 in his last 10 games and has seen his batting average dip to .271. On June 12, Werth was at .296." - "Williams: ‘Desmond and Werth need day off’" - Bill Ladson, All Nats All the Time
• "Behind a strong showing from Tanner Roark and the bullpen — and a few timely hits — the Nationals topped the Braves..." - "Nationals defeat Braves, 4-1, split series with division rival" - James Wagner, The Washington Post
• "The next time the Nationals play the Braves, Williams realizes he is going to get the same questions that he received before the four-game series began such as how come you can't beat the Braves?" - "Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals - June 22, 2014" - Bill Ladson, MLB.com WSH Recap
• Your Daily Message from the Dalai Lama on Twitter (@DalaiLama):
Non-violence is when one has the chance to harm another but resists from doing so, this is genuine non-violence.— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) June 23, 2014
• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:
• "Milwaukee will be returning home after finishing up a stretch in which 15 of 18 games were on the road. In its most recent road trip, the Brewers finished 6-1." - "Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers - June 23, 2014" - Caitlin Swieca, MLB.com Preview
• "The Braves had won 20 of the previous 27 games played between these two teams before Doug Fister introduced himself to this rivalry with eight scoreless innings on Saturday night." - "Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals - June 22, 2014" - Mark Bowman, MLB.com ATL Recap
• "The Nationals are expected to get inquiries on Espinosa now that Bryce Harper is scheduled to return from the DL shortly." - "Major league teams will be busy at deadline" - Nick Cafardo, The Boston Globe
• "Facing the Brewers (47-30) in a matchup of first-place teams presents a serious challenge for the Nationals..." - "MLB Preview - Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers" - CBSSports.com
• "The Braves’ offense, or more precisely the lack thereof, has become the great equalizer in the NL East race." - "Now the Braves can’t even dominate the Nats" - Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
• "The Brewers concluded their seven-game trip to Arizona and Colorado with a 6-1 record, upping their major-league-leading road record to 27-15." - "Brewers 6, Rockies 5 - Brewers continue to rule on the road" - Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
• "[Sam] Johns, a 2009 CM grad who just completed his senior season with the Evansville Purple Aces, was recently selected in the 31st round (934th overall pick) by the Washington Nationals in the 2014 Major League Baseball player draft." - "Johns gets shot at big-league dream" - Louie Korac, The Telegraph
• "And then there's Anthony Rendon, the Washington Nationals' rookie who started the season at second, shifted over to third, is better than all of the other candidates and would satisfy the mandate for a utility player." - "10 Degrees: It's All-Star projection time" - Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports
• NATS MINORS:
• "The Doubledays' Anderson Martinez, in his second start since undergoing Tommy John surgery, struck out four and allowed nine hits and four earned runs over 4 1/3 innings for the loss." - "Errors cost Auburn Doubledays in 15-5 loss to Mahoning Valley Scrappers" - Jeremy Houghtaling, Auburn Citizen
• "LF Randolph Oduber and CF Will Piwnica-Worms each scorched their second home runs of the season in the win." - "Piwnica-Worms and Oduber Blast Off in 11-4 Drubbing" - Potomac Nationals News
• "Monday’s News & Notes" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com
• Suns 4 Grasshoppers 3 - Jake Johansen - 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB - Hagerstown Suns Scoreboard
• "Nationals left-hander Bryan Harper, Bryce Harper's older brother, is having the best season of his professional baseball career." - "Harper proud of brother Bryan" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com: News
•"Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos played a second game for the Harrisburg Senators Sunday at Metro Bank Park, but he still teamed with a Harper." - "Washington Nationals C Wilson Ramos makes progress in rehab stint with Harrisburg Senators" - Tim Leone, PennLive.com
• "A pair of longtime Harrisburg Senators, Sean Nicol and Justin Bloxom, have been released by the Washington Nationals, the organization confirmed Sunday night." - "Justin Bloxom and Sean Nicol, longtime Harrisburg Senators, released by Washington Nationals" - Geoff Morrow, PennLive.com
• "As another week of minor league baseball comes to a close, here are some names making headlines around the Washington Nationals’ farm system." - "Washington Nationals: Minor League, Prospect Report Week of June 22nd" - Brian Skinnell, District Sports Page
• "In a contest filled with punches and counterpunches by the Harrisburg Senators and Akron RubberDucks, Matt Skole delivered the biggest blow Sunday at Metro Bank Park." - "Matt Skole delivers key blow as Harrisburg Senators beat Akron RubberDucks" - Tim Leone, PennLive.com
• "In the sixth, Syracuse scored against Durham (43-35) reliever Merrill Kelly. Brian Goodwin doubled, advanced to third base on a Peterson fly out and scored on a fielder's choice from Johnson." - "Chiefs blank Bulls for sixth straight win" - Syracuse Chiefs News
• "Some teams might have packed it in after ceding first place to their biggest division rival by losing for the seventh time in eight meetings. Not the Nats." - "Solstice brings a potential defining moment for the Nats" - Nationals Buzz: Marty Niland, MASNSports.com
• "Even though the Nats dropped the first two games of this series, and the second in crushing fashion, they were able to forget their past struggles against Atlanta..." - "Early Offense Keys Nats to Series Split" - Andrew Flax, The Nats Blog
• "For the first time ever, the Nationals racing presidents donned varied uniforms for the fourth inning presidents race, in preparation for Sunday night’s USA vs. Portugal World Cup match." - "Video: Racing presidents play out USA vs. Portugal World Cup match" - Presidents Race Fan, Let Teddy Win!
• NL EAST UPDATES:
• Braves: "Gattis' 20-game hitting streak came to a close when he was given a chance to handle the starting catching duties for a season-high fifth straight day in Sunday afternoon's 4-1 loss to the Nationals." - "Gattis gets to gain staff's faith, but streak ends" - Mark Bowman, braves.com: News
• Phillies: "The Phillies just split a four-game series in St. Louis and are now tied for 4th/5th place in the NL East with the New York Mets, only five games behind the first-place Washington Nationals." - "Report: With Deadline on Horizon, Phillies Aggressive on Scouting Front" - Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley
• Mets: "This weekend, Terry Collins offered no assurance Young, 30, gets much playing time going forward against right-handed pitching." - "Source: Chris Young may be cut Thursday" - Adam Rubin, Mets Blog - ESPN New York
• Marlins: "Miami's Nathan Eovaldi will be trying to avoid the big inning on Monday, as a four-run sixth was his undoing in his previous outing, a loss to the Cubs." - "Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies - June 23, 2014" - Erik Bacharach, MLB.com Preview