2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #3
3. Won on the Fourth of July
2013 was an odd season for Danny Espinosa. There are probably a few other words that can be thrown into that spot between “as” and “season”, but “odd” makes plenty of sense, as Espinosa’s 2013 deviated sharply from the baseline level the Nationals had come to expect. After posting near-league-average offensive numbers in his first two-plus major-league seasons, Espinosa got out to a difficult offensive start in 2013, posting a .158 average and 27 OPS+ in 44 games with Washington, hampered in part by a few injuries.
The Nationals optioned Espinosa to Syracuse in early June, and he stayed with the Chiefs the rest of the year. His first 20 games were a tough adjustment, with Espinosa posting an .088 average and 34 strikeouts while trying to get over a fractured right wrist. But in a Fourth of July doubleheader, he sprung to life. In the opener, Espinosa singled and walked in a 7-4 win. But it was the nightcap where the second baseman shot forth with what would be the highlight of his season with the Chiefs.
In front of nearly 9,000 fans, the Chiefs took the field for a 7:55 first pitch in Game Two on Independence Day. They found themselves down two runs at the end of a half-inning, but the deficit wouldn’t last long. Espinosa’s bunt single after a Jeff Kobernus hit-by-pitch and steal helped spark a two-run rally, evening the score. He’d help bring the next run home, as well – down 5-2 in the sixth of a seven-inning game, Espinosa slammed a leadoff double against former Chief Mike MacDougal and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Syracuse, though, still trailed by two runs heading into the final frame, with IronPigs right-hander Justin Friend on the mound. What followed would mark one of three Syracuse wins on the year in which the Chiefs trailed heading into their final turn at bat.
Mike Costanzo – the phormer Phillies pharmhand – greeted Friend with a solo home run to right field. 5-4. Kris Watts singled, Josh Johnson bunted him over. Tying run at second. Chris Rahl came in to pinch-run. Will Rhymes stepped up to pinch-hit. Friend walked him. First and second. Jeff Kobernus walked. Bases loaded, one out, one-run game, Espinosa at the plate…and…
That one didn’t require Danny to do anything but stand there. The next pitch, however, did.
Fireworks before the fireworks. Espinosa would follow with a two-hit game and a three-hit game immediately after in what became an up-and-down year in Syracuse. He’s expected to have a good chance to win an infield role for the Nationals in 2014 if healthy and may never come to Syracuse again. But we’ll always have the Fourth of July 2013 – a day where Espinosa’s swing was rewarded with some much-needed freedom.