And they also know when the clouds start to lift. That’s why Ryan Zimmerman walked through the Nationals clubhouse with a bounce Tuesday. Gotten any news on Espinosa and Morse yet?
“Oh, yeah,” said Zimmerman, breaking into a smile. “We’ve taken a lot of injury hits this year. We don’t want to see those guys go down.” And now it appears they won’t.
Morse’s name was back on the Nats lineup card, even though Tuesday’s game with the Dodgers was postponed by rain, to be made up as part of a doubleheader on Wednesday. Though Morse is technically still day-to-day, his return is imminent.
Far more of a relief was a diagnosis that showed Espinosa “only” has a bone bruise inside the capsule of his left shoulder. A cortisone shot Monday has already eased inflammation. With rest, he should be okay. “This is the best news we could have gotten,” said a beaming Espinosa, who feared that he would play with limited strength the rest of the season, then face surgery and lengthy rehabilitation.
The fears of a torn labrum or rotator cuff have tormented Manager Davey Johnson since Sunday, when “my tough little iron man second baseman” finally admitted to a coach that he couldn’t stand the pain of hitting. An MRI exam told the truth. Espinosa was never so glad to get a big “thick needle” with cortisone “like syrup” shot into “the right spot” in his shoulder so that he could “feel it spread, like your skin can’t hold it all.” To you, gruesome; to Espinosa, joy. He feels so much better he might play Wednesday.
Fans may wonder whether the Nationals are concerned that their 81
2 -game lead over Atlanta shrank to fivewith 16 to play after a three-game Braves sweep over the weekend (the Braves lost Tuesday, pushing the lead back to 51
2). That matters. But it quickly disappears. In baseball time, the next day quickly swallows the previous night, leaving a few memories, but little residue. The season is a shark, constantly moving forward, devouring the next game.
What matters to players is the true state of their team, their mates and their essential competitive strength. If that’s intact, they’ll take their chances.
“We’re confident. We’re a good team,” said reliever Tyler Clippard. “Come home, take a deep breath. Go out and play like we play and it’s going to take care of itself.”
True, as long as the Nats (89-57) resemble the team they’ve been all year. Their worst 16-game span all season has been 7-9. If they duplicated their worst, they’d finish 96-66 and Atlanta would have to finish 11-3 to force a tie. In other words, they’re still in the “just go play the darn games” stage. If their lead fell to a couple of games, revisit the proposition. But ballplayers have the wisdom not to turn over rocks just to see if a snake’s underneath.