On April 14, having laid waste to the Nationals, the Braves packed their things in the Nationals Park visitors’ clubhouse and headed toward the rest of their season as the unquestioned best team in baseball. They had swept the Nationals in a three-game series and outscored them, 18-5, to run their record to a major league-best 11-1.
In the opposite clubhouse, Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa hesitated to crown the Braves. He called them a talented team, but also expressed the opinion that their torrid, season-opening pace would slow.
“I still don’t think that they’re better than us,” Espinosa said then. “They’re hot right now. They’ve come back on people. They’re playing well. It doesn’t last forever. I’m not worried about it. I’m going to be real confident going into these next 16 games” against the Braves.
Atlanta fans hurled criticism Espinosa, taking his comment as a sleight. In one sense, he was right. In the past two weeks, the Braves have cooled considerably. Since they left Washington, the Braves have gone 4-8, including four consecutive losses and a weekend sweeping at the hands of the Tigers.
They still have the best record in the National League, but the Rangers and Red Sox both passed them for best mark in the majors. They enter a four-game series this weekend leading the Nationals by a mere 2 ½ games. Espinosa, fully aware of the momentum his comments gathered after the last Braves game, took stock of them on the eve of the teams’ rematch.
“I think they’ve cooled down a little bit,” Espinosa said. “I said they were a really talented team. They’re going to be really good. The rate that they were at – 12-1 or 11-1, whatever the hell they were – you’re just not going to stay there. I’m sorry. I’m not being [a jerk]. It’s just not reality. They’re not going to go 150-10.