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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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Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

HOUSTON -- Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer, Howie Kendrick had a two-run triple and the Washington Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time, 4-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's winning streak over the Astros dates to 2012. The Nationals have won 13 of 14 against Houston since 2011.

Kendrick's triple tied it in the third before the Astros went back on top with an RBI single by Josh Reddick in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon doubled with two outs in the fourth before the homer by Wieters, which landed just to the right of straightaway center field, gave the NL East leaders a 4-3 lead.

Tanner Roark (10-8) allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Charlie Morton (10-6) gave up four runs in six innings for the AL West-leading Astros.

The Astros threatened in the eighth against Brandon Kintzler when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles and the Nationals intentionally walked Carlos Beltran with one out to load the bases. But Max Stassi grounded into a double play to leave Houston trailing.

George Springer led off the Houston first with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Reddick.

Beltran doubled off the wall in left-center field in the second and scored on a single by Derek Fisher.

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound