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Dusty Baker on Espinosa's Game 1 struggles: 'Who else do I have?'

Dusty Baker on Espinosa's Game 1 struggles: 'Who else do I have?'

Throughout Danny Espinosa’s rollercoaster 2016 season, Dusty Baker has staunchly stood by his shortstop’s side at every turn. That loyalty has been rewarded in spurts, most notably by Espinosa's nine home run, 21 RBI June.

But the 29-year-old's second half swoon, one in which he slashed .172/.272/.280, carried over into Game 1 of the NL Division Series. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the switch-hitting Espinosa was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, stranding six base runners.

So is Baker willing to consider other options?

“Well, who else do I have? That’s my answer,” the manager said Saturday.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Baker has stuck with Espinosa all season, primarily because of his defense and occasional pop. After all, he’s tied for fourth among major league shortstops with 24 home runs. That said, his propensity to strikeout — he tied for fourth in the majors with 174 whiffs  — has hurt the Nats offense, and did so again in Game 1.

“I mean, you can give me somebody better, then I can play somebody instead of him," Baker continued. "You know, certain times you have certain people on your team and that’s what you’ve got. My job is to hopefully get the most out of them and make them better.”

Espinosa is starting again in Game 2 against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill. If he struggles again, it’s fair to wonder if Baker would consider starting utility infielder Stephen Drew for Game 3. Los Angeles will be going with right hander Kenta Maeda, so putting an extra left-handed bat in the lineup appears logical.

“Stephen’s done a great job for us,” Baker said. “I played Stephen as much as I could [in the regular season] on my bench…he’s going to be a big guy in these playoffs, too.”

Espinosa isn’t a stranger to calls for his job. Prior to his monster June, some fans wanted to see then-shortstop prospect Trea Turner called up from Triple-A to take over in the six-hole. But after Espinosa’s big month, the Nats moved Turner was moved to center field to get both of their bats in the order.

A few months later, Espinosa is again facing questions about his place in the lineup. But with the season on the line the time around, the Nats have to hope he can respond as he did before. 

[MORE: LOBATON IN TO CATCH ROARK IN GAME 2]

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT