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Espinosa’s key double off Peralta helps Nats win series

Second baseman hits tiebreaking, two-run double in sixth

Mugshot

Washington Nationals’ Adam LaRoche (25) and Jesus Flores (26) celebrate after they both scored on a double by Danny Espinosa during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Washington. At top right is Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Lobaton. The Nationals won 5-2. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Washington Nationals got the last word against Joel Peralta in the pine tar flap.

The suspended Tampa Bay reliever served up a tiebreaking, two-run double to Danny Espinosa in the sixth inning Thursday night, sending the Nationals over the Rays 5-2.

Earlier in the day, Peralta learned that he had been penalized by Major League Baseball for eight games after being caught with pine tar in his glove Tuesday night. Peralta is appealing the decision and can keep playing until a final decision is reached.

“I’m glad we’re past all this other stuff. That wears me out more than anything,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.

Johnson talked endlessly on Wednesday about the matter and traded jabs with his Tampa Bay counterpart, Joe Maddon. After this win, Johnson was glad to talk about Espinosa.

The switch-hitting Espinosa, who was batting a paltry .133 with runners in scoring position and just .188 left-handed, delivered.

“He’s a very dangerous hitter. He seems to shine in RBI situations,” Johnson said.

Maddon was disappointed that the Rays, who are in third place in the AL East, lost two of three in Washington.

“We didn’t get swept. We won one of the three, and that’s a good thing. When you play a three-game series you obviously want to win the series, but the last thing you want is to get swept, and we did not get swept,” Maddon said.

As a rookie, Espinosa hit 21 home runs and had 66 RBIs. This season hasn’t gone as well. He has just six home runs and 21 RBIs.

He has a huge defender in his manager.

“Sometimes, it just takes a little time — patience. You know he has the talent, the ability. You just try and not put too pressure on him,” Johnson said.

Espinosa appreciates Johnson’s support.

“It’s been huge to have the manager have my back,” Espinosa said.

Peralta (0-3) entered a game that was tied at 2 in the sixth. He got the first two outs of the inning before Jesus Flores doubled, pinch hitter Adam LaRoche was walked intentionally and Espinosa doubled.

Gio Gonzalez (9-3) pitched six innings on a steamy night when the gametime temperature was 97 degrees. He allowed two runs and seven hits, walking two and striking out four.

Gonzalez was displeased that he was hooked with the score tied.

“I was going to hook Gio after the sixth and he was working a big anger on me,” Johnson said.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the seventh on three walks issued by Craig Stammen and Michael Gonzalez. Ryan Mattheus struck out pinch-hitter Will Rhymes to end the inning.

Sean Burnett worked the eighth and Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

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