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Nats pacing Majors in bunt hits

Nats pacing Majors in bunt hits

WASHINGTON -- When Danny Espinosa pushed a perfect bunt toward second base and beat it out for a single in the second inning of Friday's game against the Cardinals, it gave the Nationals infielder his fourth bunt hit of the season in only 43 plate appearances.

By contrast, no Major League team besides the Nats finished Friday with more than three total bunt hits. Washington has eight.

Manager Matt Williams said that while sacrifices generally are called from the dugout, going for a hit is his players' prerogative.

"It's entirely up to them to view the field and feel the game, and look at what they can and can't do in that situation," Williams said.

"They're on their own to lay one down if they feel it. If the defense gives it to them, we'll let them take advantage of it, if they can. It's also a matter of setting the table for the rest of the guys, too. Creating that opportunity, and that's what we want, the opportunity."

Besides Espinosa, Bryce Harper has picked up two bunt hits, while Anthony Rendon and Denard Span both have one. Last season, Washington tied for 11th in the Majors with 19, led by Steve Lombardozzi's six.

Williams also said he has no problem with a middle-of-the-order hitter like Adam LaRoche putting one down if the defense opens up the left side of the infield with a shift.

"Yeah, [LaRoche] works on it, too," Williams said. "There may be opportunities for him to do that, as well. And he's done it before. It's part of his game."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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