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Scuffling Espinosa out of starting lineup

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WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa was not in the club's starting lineup on Sunday against the Mets, only his second time on the bench in 32 games since Ryan Zimmerman suffered a fractured thumb on April 12.

Espinosa, originally slated to be a reserve this season, took on a larger role due to Zimmerman's injury and his own hot start. But over the past few weeks, Espinosa has scuffled at the plate.

After hitting .288/.341/.488 in April, he has posted a .118/.118/.294 slash line in 14 games this month. During that time, the 27-year-old has slammed three home runs -- including a game-tying shot in the ninth inning Monday at Arizona -- but is only 6-for-51 overall with no walks and 23 strikeouts.

"I think it's pitch selection. That's all," manager Matt Williams said before Saturday's game. "I think that he is chasing balls out of the strike zone. But he's fantastic at second base, and I want to put him in there as much as I can.

"The ebbs and flows of seasons are such that sometimes that's going to happen. The good thing about Danny is he's not taking it to the field, and that's good. He's excited, he's enthusiastic, he comes ready to play every day, wants to play every day, and there's no reason that first two, three weeks of the season can't come around, starting today."

Espinosa stroked a solid single in his first at-bat on Saturday, but went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts the rest of the way. His contact rate of 66.2 percent is a career low, while his swinging strike rate of 18 percent is a career high, according to FanGraphs.com.

"I just think he's ventured outside the strike zone a little bit," Williams said. "Some balls down, some balls elevated and certainly some balls off the zone. He works every day on just zoning it back in, getting a good one to hit and hitting it. Not trying to do too much. It's electric when he gets the head of the bat on it. But the most important thing for me is it hasn't translated to the defensive side of the baseball."

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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