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Nats' Espinosa coming around, Difo and Severino produce in a pinch

Nats' Espinosa coming around, Difo and Severino produce in a pinch

Leftover notes and observations from the Nats' 8-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon…

Espinosa is coming around: Danny Espinosa had the best month of his career in June and carried that over into the first few days of July to win NL Player of the Week award along the way. Through the heart of July, however, he fell into a deep slump, hitting just .107/.206/161 with 27 strikeouts in 16 games from July 6 to July 27. That stretch had some wondering how much time he had bought himself by simply having one really good month, given the presence of Trea Turner and the Nats' apparent need for more offense.

To Espinosa's credit, he has recently been much better. Over his last seven games - from July 28 to Aug. 3 - he has six hits, two doubles, four RBI, four runs and four walks. He has held a .379 OBP. The Nats don't need much more than that from him, especially if he is playing his usually solid defense at shortstop.

Harper doubles: Bryce Harper returned to the Nats lineup after missing Tuesday's game with an illness and came through with a double, just his third extra base hit in his last 20 games. It was also just his 13th double of the season, which puts him just three ahead of Michael Taylor and one behind Ryan Zimmerman.

Harper's double was just one hit in five at-bats for the reigning MVP, who hasn't had a multi-hit game since July 7. It was, however, Harper's third straight game with a hit and over his last six outings he's reached base 11 total times.

Harper also made some pretty loud outs on Wednesday. Both of his flyouts in the third and sixth inning were to deep center field. This all came on the heels of Monday's win when he reached base three times and scored three runs. Harper isn't anywhere near his MVP form, but he's still making an impact in the Nats' lineup. He just can't seem to find consistency.

Difo and Severino produce: Both Wilmer Difo and Pedro Severino had been struggling offensively in the minors before the Nats brought them up as injury replacements during their road trip, but both stepped in with important contributions at the plate. Difo reached base twice in Wednesday's win to cap an impressive series where he went 5-for-10 with a double, three RBI and three runs. He is 6-for-14 overall this season with two doubles in five games. Severino went 2-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday and 3-for-8 overall on the road trip. Both players are known for their defense and fared well in the field, as well.

Difo, in particular, is interesting because his stock had previously fallen as a prospect. He had a breakout year in Single-A in 2014 with a .315 average, 14 homers, 90 RBI and 49 steals. But in the two years since has hit just .276 in Single- and Double-A. His power numbers have also vanished, as he holds just a .663 OPS this year with the Harrisburg Senators. This last week, however, has reminded us of his talent and proven that he can at the very least help the Nats out in a pinch if they need a middle infielder.

[RELATED: Murphy, Turner homer as Nats sweep D-Backs]


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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.

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Gonzalez dominant at Citi Field again, Nationals beat Mets 5-2

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Gonzalez dominant at Citi Field again, Nationals beat Mets 5-2

NEW YORK  -- Gio Gonzalez has kidded about what makes him so successful at Citi Field -- the Latin cuisine in the clubhouse, the jets that fly overhead, the odd angles and neat architecture.

His career record at the New York Mets' home is no joke: 11-1 with a 1.78 ERA.

Gonzalez won again at his home away from home, Trea Turner kept Washington in gear all game and the Nationals beat the Mets 5-2 Tuesday night.

"Food, I don't know, airplanes," Gonzalez said. "It's a beautiful ballpark."

A day after topping the Mets with an eighth-inning rally from a five-run deficit, the Nationals never trailed. Bryce Harper put them ahead early with a sacrifice fly and slumping Ryan Zimmerman hit a late RBI single for insurance.

"You always want to keep the momentum," Gonzalez said.

The Nationals seem to like Citi Field, too, and are now a whopping 51-19 at the park since 2011.

The Mets, whose 12-3 start had matched the best in team history, lost back-to-back games for the first time under new manager Mickey Callaway.

"We had a few opportunities. We were one swing away a few times. We just didn't get it done," Callaway said.

The disappointing defeat the previous night seemed to leave many Mets fans in a panic, as if the charmed start was somehow a mirage. Before this game, Callaway said that kind of passion "makes it fun, actually."

Turner doubled twice, singled and walked, scoring two runs and stealing his major league-leading eighth base. He helped the two-time NL East champion Nationals get back to .500 after an extended rough patch.

"When he starts doing that, he's fun to watch," manager Dave Martinez said.

Gonzalez (2-1) was the only player on the field in short sleeves on a chilly, breezy night. He allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings, avoiding big trouble despite eight hits and two walks.

Gonzalez also managed to knock down Wilmer Flores' line-drive single without it causing any damage, though it caught a piece of his glove hand.

Juan Lagares remained a nemesis for Gonzalez. Lagares went 2 for 2 with a walk and raised his career average against the lefty to .413 -- Lagares' 19 hits are the most Gonzalez has given up to any batter.

Zack Wheeler (1-1) gave up three runs in six innings in his second start of the season. Hit hard by the Nationals in his final two spring training outings, he began in the year in the minors.

"I thought I did OK," he said.

Wheeler did his part at the plate, getting two hits off Gonzalez.

"He got a little frustrated because he couldn't get the pitcher out," Martinez said.

The expressive Gonzalez made sure his displeasure wasn't misinterpreted, however. He had a quick talk with the plate umpire before taking the mound in the fifth, telling the ump any adverse reactions weren't personally directed at him.

"That was on me," Gonzalez said.

The Mets threatened late, but relievers Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler escaped jams. Sean Doolittle closed for his third save.