Results tagged ‘ denard span ’
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.”
After the 2013 season comes to an end, the Nationals are likely to make changes to improve the club for next season. Here are the current Nationals who may not be with the club next year.
OF Roger Bernadina: As one person put it, “[Bernadina] has been a disappointment this year.” He not only has problems swinging the bat, but Bernadina has made some fundamental mistakes on the bases. As one evaluator put it, “[general manager Mike] Rizzo has never been a fan of Bernadina’s.”
Bernadina is arbration eligible after this season and there is a good chance he will be non-tendered.
2B Danny Espinosa: Shoulder and wrist injuries are the reasons Espinosa is having his worst year in 2013. If he comes back to the big leagues for Washington, he most likely will be a reserve. He could be an everyday player elsewhere. He must cut down on the strikeouts to become an everyday player again.
RHP Dan Haren: Despite pitching well in the last month or so, Haren doesn’t think he will be back with the Nationals next year because of the season he has had, overall. He is 7-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 21 starts. The Nationals signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal to be one of their five starters this year.
1B Adam LaRoche: Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is arguably having his worst year defensively, with a team-leading 17 errors. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. He is still having throwing issues because of the surgery he had on his right shoulder. In fact in early June, Zimmerman said he expects the shoulder to be in rehab mode for the rest of the season, but it will not keep him out of the lineup. It would not be surprising if the Nationals decided to move Zimmerman from third to first base as early as September. That could mean trading LaRoche to make room for Zimmerman at the position.
OF Denard Span: The Nationals thought he would be their ideal leadoff man after they acquired him from the Twins for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Entering Tuesday’s action against the Giants, Span is hitting .263 with a .312 on-base percentage. Even worst, he has a .167 batting average against left-handers. It’s not known if Span will get another chance next season.
Brian Goodwin is not ready to take over center fielder. The Nationals could try to acquire a center fielder this offseason. For example, Shin-Soo Choo is a free agent after the season. He currently has a .409 on-base percentage with the Reds.
C Kurt Suzuki: Most of the playing time behind the plate has gone to Wilson Ramos, so it is doubtful Suzuki will have his option vested for 2014. The Nationals have a plethora of quality catchers in the farm system, so it looks like Suzuki will take his services elsewhere after next season.
INF Chad Tracy: The leader of the Goon Squad, Tracy is not having a productive season like he did last year. Entering Tuesday’s action against the Giants, Tracy is 18-for-102 [.176] with three home runs six RBIs. He is not the only one who is not producing of the bench. The bench is one of the reasons the Nationals have been inconsistent this season.
WASHINGTON — Entering Tuesday action, the Nationals were 54-58, 13 ½ games behind the Braves in the National League East and seven games behind the Reds in the Wild Card race. While manager Davey Johnson continues to have a positive attitude about his team, it’s pretty clear why the Nationals may not play in the postseason this year.
They rank near the bottom in offense and defense. They have also had their share of injuries. The worst was Bryce Harper, who missed more than a month of action because of a left knee injury.
“All the little things add up and they can affect your performance,” Johnson said. “It’s my job to stay positive and hope, at some point, we get it all going.”
What improvements should the Nationals make to get better? They need a leadoff hitter. Center fielder Denard Span has hit first for most of the season, and he is hitting .251 with a .310 on-base percentage at the top spot.
Ryan Zimmerman is arguably having his worst year defensively, with a team-leading 17 errors. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. He is still having throwing issues because of the surgery he had on his right shoulder. In fact in early June, Zimmerman said he expects the shoulder to be in rehab mode for the rest of the season, but it will not keep him out of the lineup.
Zimmerman had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last October. While there wasn’t any labrum or rotator cuff damage, Zimmerman needed to have his AC joint fixed, and the surgery revealed the injury to be more serious than anticipated.
It would not be surprising if the Nationals decided to move Zimmerman from third to first base in the future. That could possibly mean trading first baseman Adam LaRoche to make room for Zimmerman.
Asked if Zimmerman needed to play a different position, Johnson said, “With the work he is putting in, I thought it’d take until June. Obviously, it has taken longer. If you see him throw early [during batting practice], he throws deeper and throws the ball on the line.
“I don’t know if it’s physical or mental. I see him throw pretty good, and then in the game, he will want to get a lot of air under it. If that doesn’t get better, obviously, it’s not a good spot for him to be in. At one time, he had a cannon, and we are all waiting for him to come back. I think it’s more mental and not trusting it and cutting it lose. I see him working, and he throws the ball pretty good.”
The bench was one reason the Nationals won the division title last year. This year, not one reserve is hitting above .250 or has provided the pop off the bench. Before the Trade Deadline, the Nationals made an attempt to acquire veteran players for the bench. They were able acquire Scott Hairston from the Cubs, but since he has been in Washington, Hairston has played only against left-handed pitching.
The Nationals may need to look for two starting pitchers. Right-hander Dan Haren said recently he most likely will not be coming back because he has not lived up to expectations. Left-hander Ross Detwiler has missed most of the season because of a back injury. It’s not known if he will be healthy for next year.
The Nationals have a lot of work to do after the season comes to an end.
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
With Anthony Rendon standing on first base and nobody out on Monday night against the Braves, manager Davey Johnson relayed a sign to Denard Span asking the center fielder to bunt for a hit.
The Nationals have two different signs for bunts: one to bunt for a sacrifice, the other to bunt for a hit. Span knew that this was a bunt for a hit. And that confused him.
“Why would he give me the base-hit bunt?” Span said after the Nationals’ 3-2 loss. “It’s not surprising anybody.”
Sure enough, the Braves saw the play building and crashed toward the plate. Span put down the bunt and safely advanced the runner to second base, but he was easily thrown out at first by third baseman Chris Johnson. The play was scored as a sacrifice.
“It was one of those things where, when he gave it to me, it was kind of tough, because you know it’s a bunt situation and both sides are crashing,” Span said. “I wasn’t expecting to get a hit, because they already were way in on the grass.”
That out proved costly as Scott Hairston and Chad Tracy popped out in the next two at-bats to end the game. Johnson said he would’ve liked to see Span go all-out for the hit.
“He just decided to sacrifice,” Johnson said. “I would’ve rather seen him try to bunt and get on. That’s something he hasn’t done a lot of. But I didn’t want a straight sacrifice.”
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
When the Nationals fired Rick Eckstein last week, several veterans said that a new hitting coach wouldn’t amount to much change. When you reach the big leagues, as Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond explained, you’re pretty much set in your ways at the plate.
But after belting his second home run in as many days on Sunday, Denard Span said that new hitting coach Rick Schu has already made a noticeable difference in his swing. Span, who is having one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, said that he’s been working regularly with Schu in the batting cage. Schu suggested changing where Span’s hands are on the bat and getting more rhythm in his swing.
Since Schu’s arrival, Span is 7-for-25 (.280) with two home runs, five RBI and four runs scored.
“Just simplifying it, trying to get a little rhythm in my swing,” Span said. “All year I’ve kind of been jumpy and choppy at the plate, starting and stopping and all that, so just getting a little bit more flow.”
Span said that Schu’s term for the change is “fluididty.”
“You’ll have to ask him about that,” Span said, smiling. “He made that word up. But you know, it’s been good so far.”
While Span doesn’t feel like he’s being any more aggressive at the plate, manager Davey Johnson said that he’s seen a change in Span’s approach since the center fielder moved out of the leadoff spot and into the lower part of the lineup.
“I think in the leadoff spot, you kind of want to make the pitcher work a lot, helps all the hitters behind you,” Johnson said. “But I think your on-base percentage always goes up when you show a pitcher you’re going to hammer something when he tries to get something down the middle early and get ahead. He’s been more aggressive on balls that are pretty much down the middle. He’ll still take the borderline pitches, but I like his approach. And he’s actually making contact out front more than even with it and rolling over. So that’s great.”
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
It took 105 games, but Nationals center fielder Denard Span finally hit a home run in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Mets.
After Ian Desmond hit a two-out bomb in the second inning, Span followed with a homer of his own on the very next pitch. The ball flew high into the air and barely cleared the right field wall.
“He swung at the first pitch. We all about fell out on the bench,” manager Davey Johnson joked.
Johnson said that batting Span seventh has allowed the center fielder to be more aggressive at the plate, and Span agreed. He said that instead of taking pitches and getting a feel for the opposing pitcher, he can instead concentrate on getting a good pitch and putting it in play.
“By the time I get up there, I’ve already seen six guys hit,” Span explained. “So, I already have a good idea of what that pitcher’s doing. When I get up there, if they’re going to throw me a first-pitch fastball, I’m going to swing. It’s different when I’m leading off, I try to see as many pitches as possible but hitting seventh there’s really no rules.”
As Span’s home run cleared the wall, he cruised around the bases, basking in the glory of his first home run in 422 plate appearances this season.
“Felt good to get the monkey off my back,” he said, smiling. “It hasn’t taken this long to hit a home run in a while. Probably since A-ball. But it felt good.
“My home run trot was definitely a little rusty. I think I stutter-stepped around third. I was just trying not to fall.”
Span touched home plate and jogged to the dugout, where he exchanged some emphatic high fives with teammates.
“Denard’s got some pop, so it was good to see him do that,” Bryce Harper said. “Hopefully he doesn’t get too cocky and stay a little humble.”
“I tell you what, after hitting one today it felt like I might hit 30 for the rest of the season,” Span said jokingly. “So you guys watch out for me.”
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
Trailing 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Pirates on Wednesday night, Wilson Ramos stood on first base. Denard Span hit a chopper to second baseman Neil Walker, and then things got interesting.
Walker lunged to tag Ramos, who appeared to shift out of the way, and then threw the ball to first base to complete the double play. Umpire Laz Diaz ruled that Walker had tagged Ramos, so the game was over. Video replays showed that Walker’s tag missed Ramos. Manager Davey Johnson went out to argue the call, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
Diaz was unavailable for comment after the game, but here’s what some of those involved had to say:
Ramos: “Not even close. He never tagged me. … I don’t know, maybe he want to go home.”
Span: “He didn’t tag him, from what I saw. Neil Walker charged the ball, tried to tag him, and when he didn’t tag him, you can even tell by the way his effort was to even throw it to first, he was just trying to get an out with me. It was not even close, and that’s too bad that Laz missed it.”
Johnson: “[Diaz] said he saw the tag. I said, ‘Were you in position to see the tag?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I saw it.’ … I asked Mike Winters, ‘How about you?’ He said, ‘I didn’t see it.’ Wasn’t in position.”
Ramos: “He told me, ‘He tagged you. I don’t hear, but I saw it.’ I said, ‘Sure, you didn’t see anything. Not even close.'”
Johnson: “It’s almost a guess play.”
Span: “It’s no secret that the ball definitely isn’t bouncing our way. That wasn’t the story of the game tonight, but anything could’ve happened if that play isn’t called there.”
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
Statistically speaking, center fielder Denard Span is having the worst season of his six-year Major League career. His .263 batting average and .318 on-base percentage are both career-lows, and his swing has been so mechanically out of whack that he has repeatedly fouled balls off his front foot.
But if the past nine games are any indication, Span might be turning the corner. Over that stretch, he is hitting .353 (12-for-34) with five extra-base hits and eight runs scored. He’s also shown more patience at the plate and drew two walks against the Brewers on Monday.
“Tonight was vintage me, seeing pitches,” Span said after the Nationals’ 10-5 win. “I didn’t get fooled too much. Whenever you see me seeing a lot of pitches like that, drawing walks, that’s what I do. Hopefully that lets me know I’m getting closer to where I need to be.”
Manager Davey Johnson has noticed a substantial difference in Span’s swing over the past week. Johnson said the center fielder used to have a longer, steeper swing when hitting to the opposite field, but that it has looked more crisp in recent games.
Despite Span’s .145 average against left-handers this season, Johnson said that he will continue to use him in the leadoff role.
“I think it was last road trip in New York, he took a ball on the outside part of the plate and rifled it to left,” Johnson said. “That’s the stroke he needs, and that got a little bit out of sorts. There’s a lot of guys who have early this season.”
Span admits that his numbers aren’t quite up to par, but it’s not from lack of effort. Over the past two weeks, he has been a regular visitor at the team’s bullpen sessions, standing near the catcher and watching the ball to get his timing back on track.
“We’ve still got a lot of baseball left, and like I’ve been telling everyone from Day 1, every day I come here I’m trying to get better and better,” Span said. “Hopefully I’m turning the corner.”