WASHINGTON -- The double play combination of shortstop Ian Desmond and second baseman Danny Espinosa helps turn groundballs into outs and helps save wear and tear on the Washington Nationals' vaunted pitching staff.
And on nights like Wednesday the homegrown infielders, who got off to slow starts at the plate this month, make life difficult for opposing pitchers as well. Desmond had three extra-base hits and scored two runs and Espinosa had two hits and drove in two more as the Nationals beat the Chicago White Sox 5-2 at Nationals Park.
The Nationals (6-2) are now 5-0 at home this season, while the White Sox (4-4), whose previous four games were decided by one run, gave up 11 hits, including five for extra bases.
"Hitting barrels is contagious," said Desmond, alluding to his team's 11 hits one night after the Nats hit four homers.
Desmond had doubles in his first two at-bats and then had a triple in his third. Chicago finally retired him on a strikeout in his last trip to the plate.
"Tonight he was outstanding," Washington manager Davey Johnson said of Desmond. "He hit the ball hard, three times on the barrel. I like what I saw, especially out of Espinosa."
"When we score runs like that it is a lot easier to pitch," said Jordan Zimmermann (2-0), the starter and winner for the Nationals. Desmond and Espinosa also turned one double play.
The White Sox will look to salvage game three on Thursday after starting pitcher Gavin Floyd (0-2) was tagged with the loss as he allowed five earned runs and could not get through the sixth.
"He started out good," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said of Floyd. "Again, it's a tough lineup, you get to that fifth, sixth inning, it's hard to get through it again another time. Once they got on, they started moving around, and he couldn't get out of it."
"It's a well-balanced lineup. You're looking at a pretty complete team, and it's tough to get through them three times," Ventura added. "As a starter, that's kind of what you need to do to get us to that point otherwise you wear out the bullpen for the whole trip."
Floyd was born in Annapolis and grew up in Severna Park, Maryland, about 35 miles from Nationals Park.
"I thought I made pretty good pitches," he said. "I felt pretty good out there. They have a very good lineup, one through eight. They're very talented. You just go out there and pitch one pitch at a time and try to get them out."
The loss spoiled the homecoming for Floyd.
"It's fun. I get to see my family today," he said. "It's definitely special when you come back near home so you can have some time together. It's like any other game; just enjoy it and the times you're here."
But he was not able to get through a solid lineup that includes Espinosa, who has his average up to .200 while Desmond is hitting .290.
"He is due for a big year this year," Desmond said of his teammate.
Washington made it 4-2 in the sixth as Desmond led off with a triple against the wall in center and then trotted home as Espinosa smashed a hard shot past the first-base bag for a double.
Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki, who had walked, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by winning pitcher Zimmermann. Espinosa then scored to make it 5-2 as Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez could not handle a hard-hit single by Denard Span with the infield drawn in against reliever Donnie Veal.
Nate Jones came out of the White Sox bullpen and got Jayson Werth to ground into a double play to get out of the inning, but the damage had been done.
The White Sox had pulled within 3-2 in the sixth as hot-hitting Alex Rios grounded out to drive in Aleandro De Aza, who had led off with a double.
Washington starter Zimmermann went seven innings and allowed two earned runs and the bullpen of Drew Storen in the eighth and Rafael Soriano in the ninth closed out the victory. Storen retired Rios on a grounder with a runner on second to end the eighth and Soriano got Conor Gillaspie on a foul pop to end the game with a runner on base.
Desmond doubled for the second time in the game and scored on a single by Espinosa to break a tie and give Washington a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
Bryce Harper tied the game at 1-1 with a leadoff homer to right on the first pitch in the last of the fourth against Floyd. It was the fourth homer of the season for Harper.
Washington took a 3-1 lead in the fifth. Werth and Harper hit back-to-back singles with one out, and Werth scored on a single to right by Ryan Zimmerman. Floyd got out of the jam by inducing Adam LaRoche to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first. Jeff Keppinger singled with one out and advanced to third on a double by Rios, who homered in each of the previous four games.
Keppinger then came in to score on a groundout by Adam Dunn, the former Washington slugger who started in left field for the White Sox.
Floyd entered the game 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals. He grew up in the same Severna Park, Md., neighborhood as Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.
The start of the game was delayed 16 minutes as umpires were caught in traffic during the height of cherry blossom season in the nation's capital.
NOTES: For the second game in a row, the White Sox were without pitching coach Don Cooper, who was taken to a Northern Virginia hospital on Tuesday with diverticulitis. Bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen filled in as pitching coach, with bullpen catcher Mark Salas working as the bullpen coach. ... Chicago second baseman Gordon Beckham was unavailable and is day-to-day due to nerve irritation in his left wrist. He left Tuesday's game in the third inning. "We will figure it out on a daily basis according to how Gordon is feeling," manager Ventura said of the second base situation. Keppinger started at second Wednesday. ... The homer by Harper was the 15th of the season for the Nats in eight games. ... Dunn, who played for the Nationals in 2009-10, averaged 38 homers in two seasons in Washington. Ventura was asked about his confidence in Dunn playing left. "I guess it's pretty good," said Ventura, with Dunn standing nearby. "He doesn't lack confidence." ... The previous four White Sox games were all decided by one run.