WASHINGTON — Utilityman Danny Espinosa seized another opportunity in a season of full of them. Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper thinks his teammate should get more.
Espinosa, playing Sunday for a third straight game because of third baseman Yunel Escobar's minor neck injury, delivered a three-run, go-ahead double in the third inning of the Washington Nationals' 9-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The hit gave Espinosa his 36th RBI in his 337th at-bat of a season in which injuries have rendered him more than just an insurance plan for Escobar, shortstop Ian Desmond and second baseman Anthony Rendon.
"He deserves to play," Harper said of Espinosa, who is batting .248 with 12 home runs. "I think all sides of the ball, when he doesn't start for us, it's pretty tough. I think he's a great player. Everybody knows he's a Gold Glove-caliber player at second base."
Rendon homered for a second straight game and Wilson Ramos also connected for the Nationals, who won a second consecutive series for the first time since they won three straight in late June.
Escobar, who strained his neck colliding with a fan running down a fly ball Friday, is day-to-day and could've played Sunday, manager Matt Williams said. He's batting .305 and the least likely to have his spot taken.
Desmond at short (.229, 15 HR) and Rendon at second (.252, 3 HR) are slightly more vulnerable, though neither would be expected to lose their job to Espinosa.
Sill, Williams praised Espinosa's value to team that will need to produce more consistently on offense to chase down the NL East-leading New York Mets.
"Early in the season he got a lot of at-bats, got his timing, feels good about his swing," Williams said. "In the last couple of days, you've seen hits the other way. And today, the big double for us."
Harper hit two doubles, the first down the third-base line against the shift that helped fuel a four-run fourth inning against Matt Garza (6-14).
Jordan Zimmermann (10-8) allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings to outlast Garza, who allowed seven runs in 4 2-3 innings, his shortest start since May 16, as well as a career high-tying six walks.
"I was just off," said Garza, whose career ERA in eight starts against Washington lifted to 7.17. "There are no words. I attacked and I got too desperate at times and I put myself in holes."
Jonathan Lucroy, Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis homered for Milwaukee.
Washington took a 5-2 lead in the third, scoring four times with two outs.
Rendon walked, Harper doubled and Ryan Zimmerman walked on four pitches to load the bases.
Ian Desmond's chopped single to the mound scored a run and Espinosa cleared the bases with a double off the very top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right center.
Washington chased Garza in a four-run fifth to make it 9-3. Ramos drove his 10th homer of the season to center off Garza before Rendon's two-run shot off reliever Corey Knebel.
"I don't know how many times we haven't had our whole lineup," Harper said of the outburst, before citing center fielder Denard Span's expected return. "Denard getting back, it's going to get even better."
THE SIX SPOT
Harper recorded his sixth defensive assist of the year in the first inning, throwing out Ryan Braun at second base following his single to the right field warning track.
Davis' eighth-inning shot off reliever Drew Storen was his ninth home run in August and marked his 22nd RBI in the month. Davis, who missed 35 games with right knee injury, has 16 round-trippers this seasons.
Nationals: Span (back tightness) and 2B Dan Uggla (back spasms) each had three at-bats in their third straight rehab games Sunday afternoon with Double-A Harrisburg. Span started at DH and went 1 for 3, while Uggla was hitless.
Brewers: RHP Wily Peralta (4-7, 4.48) looks for his third consecutive victory Tuesday against Cleveland as Milwaukee begins its final interleague series of the year ag. The Indians will start RHP Josh Tomlin (1-1, 2.03 ERA).
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 4.22), who has allowed three earned runs in his last three starts, will likely get the nod Tuesday against RHP James Shields (9-5, 3.74) and San Diego.