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Paolo Espino solid in spot start, but Nationals drop series finale to Diamondbacks

Paolo Espino officially heard at 5 p.m. Saturday that he’d pitch for the Washington Nationals the following afternoon. With Stephen Strasburg scratched from his scheduled start due to right shoulder inflammation, Espino was called up from the alternate training site for the series finale with the Diamondbacks.

Waiting to welcome the 34-year-old Espino back to the big leagues was the Diamondbacks’ Josh Rojas, who sent a leadoff home run flying out of Nationals Park. But beyond that early blast and a long ball in the fourth inning, Espino held his own during his 4 1/3 innings as an emergency starter. Instead, Washington’s issues on Sunday were unrelated to the team’s spot starter. With a leaky bullpen and a lineup that struggled to produce against left-hander Madison Bumgarner and the Arizona relief arms that followed, the Nationals dropped the final game of a four-game set with the Diamondbacks, 5-2.

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“If pitchers can keep us in the ballgame, that’s all I want,” said Trea Turner, who launched two solo shots for the Nationals. “He gave us a chance to win today. He gave up two solo homers. … That’s going to happen. Those mistakes are going to happen. And he bounced right back and pitched well for us.”

Espino was in this position because Strasburg was added to the 10-day injured list Sunday morning due to shoulder discomfort during a bullpen session a few days earlier. An MRI revealed “some inflammation,” Martinez said. And regarding Strasburg, Washington isn’t willing to take chances.

There’s no timetable for Strasburg’s return, making him one of several absentees on the pitching staff. Luis Avilan suffered a torn UCL in his elbow, and Wander Suero headed to the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain. Will Harris and Jon Lester remain at the alternate training site, ramping up ahead of potential returns later this month? “When two guys go down like that amid a day,” Martinez said of Strasburg and Suero, “it’s tough. But you have to play that game. You know that help is on the way.”

So Espino was on the bump to begin Sunday’s contest, and his sixth pitch quickly left the yard off Rojas’ bat. Carson Kelly added a long ball in the fourth, negating Turner’s third-inning solo shot to give Arizona the lead again. But beyond those blasts, Espino worked around the few baserunners he allowed — and he received a defensive assist from Victor Robles to avoid a runner in scoring position in the third inning. Asdrubal Cabrera launched a 396-foot bomb off the center field fence, but Robles read the bounce to perfection and sent a laser from the wall to second base, capturing Cabrera before he could slide in safely.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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