Coming out of a five-inning outing against the New York Mets on the road in Citi Field which saw him walk no one and strike out a career high seven hitters, Washington Nationals’ right-hander Paolo Espino talked about what was working for him on the hill in Flushing, Queens, NY.
“Definitely the command of my fastball was really good,” Espino explained. “Combined with the slider — the slider was working really well today. I think I used it more than my curveball today — so I was pretty much trusting all of my pitches. I felt good, arm felt good ... and the command was working real good.”
The 34-year-old right-hander said the command he had was what allowed him to avoid any walks.
“If I can throw my fastball in the strike zone,” he told reporters, “I think all the other pitches are going to work well after that, so I think that was definitely the key, the command of my fastball today.”
Espino was scheduled to follow up on that outing with a start on Wednesday night in the nation’s capital, but inclement weather resulted in a postponement and a 15-hour wait in the nation’s capital before he got another chance to go.
Nationals’ bench coach Tim Bogar, filling in as the manager with Davey Martinez out after a surgical procedure on his foot (scheduled on what was supposed to be an off-day), talked before the finale of the three-game set with the Phillies about whether the extended break between outings would affect Espino.
“No,” Bogar said. “I think because of the game getting postponed and the threat of the weather being as bad as it was, we actually had the clubhouse closed and we let the guys just have the whole day off, but Paolo just goes about his day as a normal thing, he’s ready to go today and he’s prepared to pitch today.”
Bogar, echoing sentiments shared by his manager after Tuesday’s game about needing a bit more length from the Nationals’ starters, said he hoped Espino could go deep into the third of three with the Phillies in D.C.
“Obviously, we’d like to see him go deeper in the games,” Bogar said. “He’s been doing a good job of getting through four or five innings, we need to eat up some innings with our starters so that we can get the ball to the back end of our bullpen a little bit with [fewer] outs to get. Espino is a competitor. He goes out there every inning and tries to get people out and he’s been doing it really well. Pretty proud of how he’s been going about it this year, and we’re just looking to see more of that out of him today.”
Bogar also offered his take on what’s allowed Espino to enjoy the success that he has in the 2021 campaign.
“He’s been able to use his curveball, so I haven’t been here to see him in person, obviously,” Bogar said, after missing time on the COVID-IL and as he recovered from surgery on his back “... but I’ve been watching on TV, and he’s been using his curveball effectively all season, but his ability to spot his fastball in certain situations has really helped him a little bit. And he attacks the strike zone really well, keep these guys off-balance a little bit with his breaking ball and spot that fastball, and it’s what he does well.”
Espino threw five scoreless on 73 pitches, and he was to seven-straight batters, with a 6-0 lead, so Bogar sent the starter back out for the sixth, and he gave up a leadoff single off of Odubel Herrera’s bat, and a one-out, infield single by Bryce Harper on his 89th pitch of the game ended his outing.
Mason Thompson took over and gave up a base-loading walk and base-clearing double as the Phillies cut the Nationals’ lead in half in what ended up a come-from-behind, 7-6 win in the series finale.
Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 89 P, 59 S, 5/5 GO/FO.
Of Espino’s 89 pitches, 55 were four-seam fastballs (62%), and he got four swinging and a total of 18 called strikes with it, mixing in 18 curves (20%), 15 sliders (17%) and one change.
“Espino gave us some big outs, got us into the sixth inning, like we needed him [to],” Bogar said after the game.
“I really liked the fact that he was using his fastball. He was aggressive early with it, first inning he got the first two hitters out with it, you know, and I think it made his curveball even better. You could tell their approach was to sit back and wait for him to throw that curveball over the plate, and he wasn’t allowing them to do that.
“He was spotting his fastball and was very competitive with it, and then when he did use his curveball, it played up, and he got a lot of easy outs that way. So very impressed with how he went about his business today.”
“Everything was working well,” Espino told reporters in his own post game Zoo call.
“Fastball command was — again, I think was the key,” he added.
“Offspeed was okay, I felt that they were good, but not as good as my previous outings, so I think today the key was fastball command.”