Results tagged ‘ denard span ’
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — After Rafael Soriano’s rough second half continued with a blown save in Friday’s loss to the Phillies, Nationals manager Matt Williams stopped short of announcing a change in closers but said he will “address” the situation.
“It’s not an easy decision,” Williams said, following Soriano’s three-run, two-homer ninth inning. “None of them are. But we want to be able to close those games out. Sori understands that — he’s been around the block.”
Williams said he will talk with the veteran and “see where we’re at,” on Saturday. The Nats used nine relievers in Wednesday’s crazy win over the Dodgers and then eight on Friday, so even with a 10-man bullpen thanks to expanded September rosters, options will be a bit limited for the second game of the series.
But if Williams wants to turn to someone other than Soriano, he has choices. Tyler Clippard saved 32 games in 2012, a year after Drew Storen saved 43. Lefty Matt Thornton has saved 23 over an 11-year career.
“We’ll address it,” Williams said. “Again, I’m not gonna let [the media] know exactly what’s gonna happen right now, but we have guys that have done it, so we have multiple options. I can give you that. Depends on who’s available, who’s fresh, who’s not. But we have multiple options, which is a good thing for us. Guys who have been there before.”
Soriano entered Friday’s ninth inning with a 7-4 lead but gave up a leadoff single to Domonic Brown before Carlos Ruiz mashed a two-run homer. Two outs later, Ben Revere tied the game with his only his second career homer, in nearly 2,000 plate appearances. Both long balls came on two-strike sliders up and out over the plate.
Since the All-Star break, Soriano has allowed 15 earned runs, 27 hits and seven walks over 19 1/3 innings, but he said he feels fine physically and with his fastball. He plans to watch video and sit down with pitching coach Steve McCatty on Saturday. He’ll also throw in the bullpen for McCatty in an effort to figure out what’s wrong.
Told of Williams’ comments, Soriano said he and his manager share “good communication.”
“I talk to him in Spring Training,” said Soriano, who has converted 31 of 38 chances this season. “That be my job in the ninth, and right now it not be too easy to do. I have to do it better. I gotta figure out what’s going on right now and do it better.”
Meanwhile, teammates Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span all expressed support for Soriano.
“He’s our closer,” LaRoche said. “He’s done it for a long time, he knows what he’s doing and he knows how good he is. He’s put up some really good years. It’s really easy through a short stretch to second guess what somebody is doing.
“I think this will pass and nobody will think twice about it. He’s just going through one of those stretches where nothing is working out. Good pitches are getting fouled off. The ones that were getting hit right at somebody are hitting a gap or leaving the ballpark. He’ll be all right.”
A couple of other notes from a wild night at the ballpark:
– Harper and Span combined for a costly mistake in the 11th inning when they collided while going for Brown’s fly ball into the left-center gap, allowing it to drop for a two-base error. Brown later scored the go-ahead run.
“It got to the point where I thought I could get it, [Span] called it, and we bump into each other,” Harper said. “Center field priority, of course. I got to get out of there.”
Added Span: “I saw him in my peripheral [vision], but I thought he was going to veer off and just didn’t. I’m pretty positive he didn’t hear me. Just miscommunication, basically.”
– Span picked up his 1,000th career hit with a first-inning single and tipped his helmet to the crowd after receiving a big ovation.
“It was definitely touching, heartfelt, and just unbelievable,” he said. “The fans, they’ve embraced me, really since the second half of last year. It was just a good feeling when the fans acknowledge you for your hard work.”
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By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — A few hours after Nationals manager Matt Williams said he would stick with the scuffling Denard Span as his leadoff hitter, Span rewarded that faith with one of the best games of his career on Tuesday.
Span went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs, a stolen base and two runs scored in a 9-4 win over the Reds. In the process, he lifted his batting average from .239 to .263 and his on-base percentage from .287 to .308.
It was the sixth five-hit game in Nationals history (since 2005) and first since Ian Desmond on Sept. 15, 2011. It also was the seventh five-hit game in the Major Leagues this season and the third of Span’s career — but first since 2009, his first full big league season.
“Those are special,” Williams said of the performance. “Those don’t happen very often, so good for him.”
And good for the Nats, who improved to 13-5 this season when Span reaches base safely at least twice. But that hasn’t happened often enough for Washington, which entered Tuesday last in the Majors in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, with Span occupying that position in 35 of 44 games.
It’s Span’s second straight season getting off to a slow start. Last year, he hit .258 with a .310 on-base percentage through Aug. 16 before hitting .338 with a .375 OBP the rest of the year to finish within striking distance of his career numbers.
Tuesday showed Span’s full arsenal of offensive skills when he’s clicking. He opened the bottom of the first inning by taking Johnny Cueto the other way for a single on a rare first-pitch swing. In the third, he dropped a bunt toward third base, with his speed helping force a bad throw that scored a run and put Span at third. In the sixth, he singled and stole a base in his first at-bat and ripped a two-run double in his second — the latter hit off lefty Sean Marshall (Span came in hitting .190 against southpaws). Finally, in the eighth, he enjoyed a bit of luck that he might have been due for, hitting a blooper to shallow center field that eluded the Reds’ defense for a double.
Despite all of that, Span said he was already trying to put the game behind him.
“It was just one day. Had a good day. Today was my day,” Span said. “Saw the ball good, and I’ve got to do it again tomorrow. That’s what it’s all about. Whether I go 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, my mindset the next day is yesterday is yesterday and I’ve got to do it again.”
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By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — Before Triple-A Syracuse played at Indianapolis on Saturday, Steven Souza Jr. was informed he wouldn’t be in the lineup. Instead, he would be heading back to Washington.
The Nationals officially recalled Souza for his second big league stint on Sunday morning, when they placed Bryce Harper on the 15-day disabled list with a left thumb sprain. Souza was in the Washington clubhouse prior to Sunday afternoon’s game against the Padres.
The 25-year-old outfielder said he feels a little more more at ease this time after his first trip to the Majors, from April 12-18, while Denard Span was on the 7-day disabled list.
“It’s kind of those first-day jitters where you don’t even know anything. You don’t know to put butter on your toast or what,” Souza said. “[Now] it’s more of how are we going to win this game, how can I help this team win, how can I be a part of this and kind of focus on that.”
Ranked by MLB.com as the Nats’ No. 14 prospect, Souza made his Major League debut on April 13 at Atlanta and picked up his first career hit on April 15 in Miami, a single to center field off Marlins lefty Dan Jennings. In all, he played five games and went 1-for-4 with a walk before being optioned back to Syracuse.
Even with Harper out, Souza might not see the field much more this time around. Manager Matt Williams indicated that Nate McLouth will see most of the starts in left field against right-handed pitchers, with Kevin Frandsen and Tyler Moore serving as options against lefties.
The brief demotion to Syracuse did give Souza a chance to log some much-needed swings. In four games there, he went 5-for-11 with a double and three RBI. For the season, Souza is hitting .333/.463/.545 with two homers and 10 RBI in 41 Triple-A plate appearances.
“Those ABs were huge, just to get in the rhythm of playing every day and getting some consistent ABs,” Souza said.
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By Andrew Simon
VIERA, Fla. — Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest between the Nationals and Braves at Space Coast Stadium featured two teams that figure to be fighting each other for the National League East title. But after a brisk first two innings from starters Jordan Zimmermann and Julio Teheran, the game devolved into a sloppy affair that lasted three hours, 59 minutes and featured 31 runs, 37 hits, 14 walks, six errors and numerous misplays.
For what it’s worth, the Nats outlasted the Braves, 16-15. Here are some notes and observations from a long and crazy day at the ballpark:
– Zimmermann was on point, throwing 15 of his 20 pitches for strikes and getting five ground balls in six batters during two scoreless innings. As mentioned in today’s notebook, Zimmermann mixed in some nice changeups, a part of his repertoire that that he has developed very gradually in recent years.
– Bryce Harper played his first game of the spring, going four innings in left field and taking three plate appearances. He lined out sharply to first base, walked twice and stole a base.
– The Nats went 3-for-3 on steals in the third inning, with Denard Span stealing one on his own before pulling off a double steal of third and second with Harper. New manager Matt Williams wants his players to run the bases more aggressively, and they appear to be doing that in the early going.
– Most of the Nats pitchers after Zimmermann had a tough time, but veteran righty Luis Ayala — competing for one the last two bullpen spots — stopped the bleeding. He came in to protect a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth and induced an inning-ending double play, then pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Ayala is a sinkerball artist who posted an excellent 59 percent groundball rate last season, mostly with Atlanta.
“He’s a guy that can have really quick innings,” Williams said. “An aggressive opposition, ball sinking down and in, a lot of ground balls. So that’s why we’re considering him and that’s why he’s here and it was a perfect situation today for him.”
– Michael Taylor, who is considered a strong defensive prospect in center field, had a rough day after entering the game in right. He made two errors on one play to allow Matt Lipka to circle the bases on a bloop hit down the line and later dropped a line drive into the right-center gap.
“We want to make sure he gets some reps out there,” Williams said. “Today’s a rough day for any right fielder, but he’ll get some more reps out there, too.”
Tomorrow: The Nats are back at Space Coast to take on the Marlins at 1:05 p.m. Doug Fister will start in his Washington debut, and fellow newcomer Jerry Blevins is scheduled to pitch as well. Jayson Werth is supposed to play for the first time this spring.
Looking ahead: Ross Detwiler will start against the Yankees on Monday in Tampa, and Stephen Strasburg will take the ball against the Braves on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista. That would leave Gio Gonzalez as the one expected member of the rotation yet to pitch.
Worth noting: Although he called Saturday’s defensive sloppiness an “aberration,” Williams said his club will address the issue in a previously scheduled situational defense practice on Sunday.
Worth quoting: While passing a group of reporters in a hallway shortly after the game, Nats coach Mark Weidemaier, who is in charge of the club’s defense, quipped, “Coached the [heck] out of ‘em today!”
Further reading: Today’s notebook on Nationals.com also includes info on how Danny Espinosa will split his time between second base and shortstop this spring, the approach Williams wants prospect Zach Walters to take at the plate, and lefty Tyler Robertson aiming for a bullpen job.
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By Andrew Simon
VIERA, Fla. — Thursday was a light day at Nationals camp, as the team gears up for the start of the Grapefruit League season, which begins on Friday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie. The main piece of action was batting practice on the field at Space Coast Stadium. Here are some notes and observations:
– As mentioned in today’s notebook on Nationals.com, manager Matt Williams and catcher Wilson Ramos got into a bit of friendly competition during Ramos’ BP rounds. Ramos whiffed on one early offering but got his revenge by crushing a few monstrous home runs, including two off the left-field scoreboard. After Ramos demolished his last pitch over the berm behind deep left-center field, Williams jokingly shouted, “Show-off!”
“He’s just big power. Big power,” Williams said. “He hits the ball the other way really good, too. So that’s why he’s so good at driving runs in because he stays through the middle of the diamond. Today he was letting it eat a little bit though. That’s good.”
– The workout was open to the public, and although only perhaps a few dozen people sat in the stands, one group serenaded center fielder Denard Span with “Happy Birthday” when he stepped into the cage for his first round of BP. Span turned 30 on Thursday.
– Some managers prefer to take their own cars to away games during Spring Training, but Williams will be taking the bus.
“I don’t think that I have authority to do that right now,” Williams said of going on his own. “One, I don’t know where I’m going. Two, we’re going to have talks on the way back. We’re going to need to put together lineups for the next day and stuff like that.”
Tomorrow: The Nats finally will face someone other than themselves when they square off against the Mets at 1:10 p.m. ET. Taylor Jordan will get the start, while Rafael Montero will go for New York. As Bill Ladson writes, it will be Williams’ first game as a big league manager, even if it’s only Spring Training.
Looking ahead: The club’s first game at Space Coast Stadium will be at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday against the Braves. They also will face the Marlins in Viera on Sunday at 1:05 before heading back on the road.
Worth noting: Williams said he plans to give his starters a couple of at-bats in Friday’s game. That group includes the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.
Worth quoting: Williams on if he is nervous about the mechanics of managing a game — “No, it’s fine. That part of it, I’ve done before [in the Arizona Fall League]. Not at this level. The only thing I’m worried about or nervous about is trying to get everyone into the game. I want to look at everybody. So unfortunately that is almost impossible sometimes. But that’s the plan. But going out there and making a change, I’m not worried about that stuff.”
Further reading: In today’s notebook, there are items on Williams’ plan to keep Ramos healthy and fresh this season, the Nats’ catchers preparing for the new home-plate collision rule, and how reliever Erik Davis is progressing in his recovery from an elbow injury.
You can follow me on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.
By Andrew Simon
When Ian Desmond swiped second base in the seventh of Sunday’s nightcap against the Marlins, it gave him 20 stolen bases and his second consecutive season with at least 20 steals and 20 homers.
Considering that Desmond plays a prime defensive position at shortstop, that blend of power and speed is a rare commodity. Six other players have hit the 20-20 mark this year, and all of them are outfielders. Only three other infielders are anywhere close with a week left to go, but none of them are shortstops.
In fact, Desmond is now only the seventh shortstop in history with multiple 20-20 seasons, joining Hanley Ramirez (four), Jimmy Rollins (four), Alex Rodriguez (three), Derek Jeter (two), Barry Larkin (two) and Alan Trammell (two).
“He does it all,” said center fielder Denard Span, who is first-year teammates with Desmond. “I’m gonna be honest with you — has a strong arm, hits for power, hits for average. He’s the total package. I knew him for a few years before I got here but I never had a chance to watch him play up close and personal and he’s definitely the real deal.”
Span also praised the intelligence, work ethic and drive Desmond brings on a daily basis.
The 28-year-old has played in and started 153 of the Nats’ 156 games this year and on Monday will hit the 154-game plateau for the third time in his four full big league seasons. Manager Davey Johnson called him “Iron Man Desi,” on Saturday, when he brought him up as a worthy candidate for team MVP, alongside Jayson Werth.
Quality has matched quantity, too. Desmond’s .286/.338/.465 batting line with 20 homers gets him close to his numbers from a breakout 2012, and he already has set a career high with 80 RBIs. He also has accrued a career-best 5.1 wins above replacement (according to FanGraphs.com), thanks to solid contributions offensively, defensively and on the bases. That puts him second among MLB shortstops, behind only Troy Tulowitzki.
“Every day he’s ready to go, same intensity,” Span said. “He never looks tired, never looks frustrated or flustered. He’s always ready to go. He’s definitely a gamer.”
Two innings after Desmond reached 20-20, he took first on an intentional walk. With one out in the ninth inning of a tie game, he broke for second on the back end of a double steal and slid in safely for No. 21.
Clearly, he wasn’t satisfied.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely a blessing,” he said of the accomplishment, which earned him an ovation from the crowd at the end of the inning. “I wasn’t always headed down this road in my life, and I’m just fortunate and try to take every day as a blessing and just try to do the best I can every day.”
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
With their all-important doubleheader sweep of the Braves on Tuesday, the Nationals have won 10 of 11, 21 of 27 and 27 of 37.
But with only 11 games remaining, their playoff odds have not improved much.
CoolStandings.com pegs Washington’s chances of reaching the postseason at 3.8 percent. Baseball Prospectus has them even lower, at 3.3 percent.
The Reds have a 4 1/2-game lead in the National League Wild Card race, which is fairly significant with less than two weeks left in the season. Their magic number to clinch the Wild Card is seven, meaning a combined seven Reds wins and Nats losses.
“I mean, we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Denard Span said. “We haven’t gotten over any humps yet. [The Braves] are in the playoffs. We’re not. So it feels good for today … but that’s all I’m concerned about right now.”
Yes, long odds like these have been overcome before. In 2011, St. Louis went 8-3 and passed the Braves, who finished 2-8. That same year, the Rays trailed Boston by four games with 12 to play and won the Wild Card. But it doesn’t happen often.
For a team that has struggled with expectations all season, however, that might be a good thing.
“We’re playing with house money,” Ian Desmond said over the weekend. “Everyone kind of wrote us off, and we’re fighting our way back in. Just keep on playing and what will be will be.”
The easiest way to think about the race is in terms of that magic number: seven. If the Reds finish 7-3, they automatically clinch the Wild Card — even if the Nationals go 11-0. If the Reds go 5-5 and the Nationals finish 9-2 (which is still a tremendous stretch), the Reds still clinch.
All of that assumes, of course, that we have a two-team race for the second Wild Card spot. In reality, it is a fluid situation.
The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are separated by 2 1/2 games in the NL Central. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will play six of their final nine games against one another. The Nationals will open a three-game series in St. Louis at the beginning of next week. Depending on how those games shake out, the Nationals could find themselves targeting another NL Central team for that final Wild Card spot.
That said, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Nationals’ sweep of the Braves on Tuesday. The Reds are in Houston beating up on Bo Porter and the Astros, so if the Nationals can win again Wednesday and merely keep up with Cincinnati over these three days, it will be a major victory.
Playoff implications aside, the Nationals are building momentum for a strong finish. They beat a Braves team that had bullied them at Nationals Park all season. It was about pride as much as anything else.
Sure, the odds say that the Nats will not make the playoffs. But they also seem poised to finish well above .500 with the confidence that this core group of players can still get the job done, even if they have to wait until next year to do so.
“By no means are we to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow yet,” Desmond said. “But we are playing better and I think that’s all of us in here really wanted to see us do, finish the season with some pride and put up the year people thought we were going to.”
NEW YORK — Nationals center fielder Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 20 games by hitting a leadoff home run against the Mets on Monday night.
With right-hander Carlos Torres on the mound for New York, Span led off in the first inning and worked the count to 2-2, when he hit the ball over the right-field wall for his fourth home run of the season. It was also the first leadoff home run for the Nationals this season.
During the streak, Span is 32-for-79 [.405] with two home runs and seven RBIs. Span has a long way to go before he catches up to the Nats’ record set by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who had a 30-game hitting streak that went from April 8th to May 12th, 2009.
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
Denard Span extended the best hitting streak of his career to 15 games on Sunday night with a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning. Entering Monday’s series opener against the Phillies, he had a .407 average over his past 15 games.
Span has been spending extra time in the batting cage with hitting coach Rick Schu, who introduced a concept called “fluididity” to the center fielder.
“I don’t know if it’s a word, but it is now,” Schu said over the weekend. “We’re just trying to get him some rhythm and some flow. Really not a big overhaul — it’s tough because you’ve got to compete every day — but we’re just trying to find some rhythm and get him a game plan every day.”
Span hit .265 in 90 games before Schu’s arrival and is hitting .303 in 34 games since. Perhaps the most noticeable difference in Span’s approach is that he has been hitting for power. All three of his home runs this season have come since the All-Star break, in addition to five doubles and two triples.
“He’s a strong guy,” Schu said. “We don’t want him to go up and worry about hitting home runs, but he’s going to run into them and hit them. It’s just a matter of getting through his front side and just staying through the baseball a little bit longer.”
Schu praised Span as an all-around hitter with the ability of a perennial All-Star. He said that Span is not just a table-setter at the top of the lineup, but someone who could hit 10 home runs in a season as well.
“Not to take anything from conventional leadoff hitters, but I’ve never considered myself just a slap guy, or a singles guy,” Span said. “I’ve always considered myself a guy that can drive the ball in the gaps and hit some home runs. I’m confident in my ability. I know what God has blessed me with. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and just continuing to work.”