Results tagged ‘ Denard Span ’
Washington Nationals (21-17) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-22)
RHP Dan Haren (4-3, 5.17) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.62)
The Nationals opened their 10-game California trip with a 6-2 victory on Monday night and hope to keep their winning ways going against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Dan Haren takes the mound for Washington riding a three-game winning streak over which he has fashioned a 3.15 ERA, striking out 12 and walking just two.
1. Espinosa 2B
2. Lombardozzi LF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Desmond SS
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore RF
7. Ramos C
8. Perez CF
9. Haren RHP
BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S BEST
Nationals starting pitchers rank second in the Major League Baseball with a 3.19 ERA (83 ER/234.0 IP). Last season, Washington paced the National League in starters ERA at 3.40.
Adam LaRoche enters tonight’s action riding a 10-game hit streak, one shy of his career-long of 11 (accomplished twice, last July 22-August 3, 2012). During the stretch, which began on May 2, LaRoche has gone 14-for-34 (.412) with two doubles, four RBI, six walks and five runs scored, posting a .488 OBP and a .958 OPS. LaRoche joins Ian Desmond (10 games, April 24-May 3) as the only Nationals to put together double-digit streaks this season.
NO DOUBLE DIPPING
With just 20 GIDPs, the Nationals have been the second-toughest club in the NL to double-up this season (NYM, 15 GDP). Denard Span, who has not grounded into a double play since September 24 last season, currently ranks third in the NL with 137 at-bats without a GIDP.
After seeing the film “42,” Commissioner Bud Selig felt that it was very important for everyone, especially young people, to see the movie. So over the past few weeks, Major League Baseball and its 30 clubs teamed up to offer high school students a private screening and panel discussion with members of the baseball community about the impact of Jackie Robinson’s legacy on American history.
Last Friday, nearly 400 D.C. public high school students were treated to a special showing, followed by an open question and answer session with Nationals broadcaster Dave Jageler, EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, center fielder Denard Span, first base coach Tony Tarasco and Kendra Gaither from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Given the ability to ask nearly anything and everything, the students asked questions about the challenges of being a professional athlete, the impact of Jackie Robinson, and battling racial prejudice, both on and off the field.
In one of the best questions of the day, Rizzo was asked if he thought he could have made a move as bold as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey’s in signing Robinson as the first African American player in the Major League Baseball.
“It’s difficult to put yourself in his shoes,” Rizzo admitted. “Not only was that a baseball decision, it was a social decision that sent ripples throughout the world.”
All the panel participants stressed the importance of remembering just how big of a story Robinson’s ascent to the Major Leagues was, and how his influence extended far beyond the playing field. After all, he made his debut in 1947, more than 16 full years prior to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” often thought of as the centerpiece of the American Civil Rights Movement.
“With the passage of time, there’s an opportunity for amnesia,” explained Gaither, whose work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation is an ongoing effort to fight such an occurrence. “A movie like this reminds us of what life was really like back then.”
For his part, Span expressed not only gratitude for the doors the previous generations opened that allowed him to do what he does, but also pride in the opportunity to so publicly celebrate Robinson’s legacy every April 15.
“It’s a day that I look forward to every year,” he said of MLB’s league-wide day of recognition, on which all players wear the number 42. “We get a chance to honor a special individual.”
When asked if they thought they would have had the bravery to do what Robinson did, Span and Tarasco had slightly different takes. While the current player expressed hope that he could have done the same, Tarasco was more forthcoming.
“Honestly, I don’t think I could have,” he said.
Ultimately, though, Robinson’s success signified something greater to Tarasco. His biggest takeaway from the film was that the spirit of the team won out over individual prejudice, a sentiment that will never be forgotten and will never go out of style.
“It’s not about who’s right, it’s about what’s right.”
— DC Public Schools (@dcpublicschools) May 11, 2013
5.9.13 – Nationals 5, Tigers 4
Stat of the Game: Washington scored five times in the first two innings, improving to a perfect 13-0 when scoring five or more runs this season.
Under-the-Radar Performance: The bullpen turned in three scoreless innings to preserve a one-run lead in the victory.
It Was Over When: Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder’s long fly ball came up short of the wall in center field as Denard Span squeezed the final out for the two-game series sweep.
5.3.13 – Pirates 3, Nationals 1
Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche reached base safely three times, via two opposite-field singles and a walk.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span made a pair of rangy defensive plays in center field, despite having fouled a ball of his foot in the first inning.
It Was Over When: The Nationals could not convert with runners at the corners, down by two in the eighth inning.
Washington Nationals (15-14) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (16-12)
LHP Ross Detwiler (1-2, 2.03) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (2-2, 2.83)
Dan Haren turned in his best start yet as a National as Washington earned a split of the four-game set in Atlanta with a 3-1 victory Thursday night. Nationals pitching has allowed just one run in the last 21 innings heading into tonight’s series opener in Pittsburgh, which will pit two of the top 20 ERAs in the league against one another with Ross Detwiler (ninth) and A.J. Burnett (20th) matching up.
1. Span CF
2. Desmond SS
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore RF
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler LHP
In Thursday’s win at Turner Field, Denard Span sparked the Nationals offense with three hits (two doubles, two RBI, a walk and a run scored). In so doing, he reached base four or more times for the 34th time in his career. Span’s teams are now 24-10 (.706) when he reaches base four or more times in a single game (1-0 with Washington, 23-10 with the Twins).
Nearly 30 games into the season, Ian Desmond has more extra-base hits (17) than singles (16). Desmond is one of only nine big leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances on the season to be able to stake this claim, joining Mike Napoli, Chris Davis, Justin Upton, Anthony Rizzo, Coco Crisp, J.P Arencibia, Adam Dunn and Chris Young.
NEW FRONTIERS AHEAD
The Nationals are 8-8 this season against NL East rivals after posting MLB’s top intra-division winning percentage last season (48-33, .593). Starting with tonight’s lid-lifter at PNC Park, the Nationals will play 18 straight games outside the division.
As Greg Maddux so astutely pointed out to Tom Glavine in the hilarious Nike ad from the late ’90s, chicks dig the long ball. In fact, so does every baseball fan and writer, as home runs are, incidentally, the loudest happening on a baseball field. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that Justin Upton and the hard-swinging Atlanta Braves garnered many of the season’s early headlines.
While the Nationals have plenty of potential for pop in their own lineup, there is no denying that the pitching will lead them as far as they go this season. So it was only fitting that, after an 8-1 loss which left their final April record at just 13-14, Washington quietly rebounded with a pair of dominant pitching performances to earn a four-game split of a tough road series in Atlanta.
Following Jordan Zimmermann’s beauty on Wednesday, veteran Dan Haren shredded his way through the Braves lineup with stunning efficiency on Thursday, allowing just a solo home run over eight innings.
At one point, Nationals pitchers had retired 28 straight Atlanta hitters, one better than the equivalent of a perfect game over the two-day stretch. They ran up an 18-inning scoreless streak as well, and have allowed just one run over their last 21 frames entering this weekend’s series in Pittsburgh.
It was, perhaps, a bit ironic that on the day that Upton was honored with the National League Player of the Month – and Evan Gattis the NL Rookie of the Month – it was the rival Nationals bullying their way to another big road win, sucking the air out of the Turner Field crowd.
Even more so, the Nationals were able to jump on nemesis Kris Medlen early for the only three runs they would need. They didn’t do it by leaving the ballpark, but rather thanks to a pair of doubles by the pesky, opportunistic Denard Span, who scored the game’s first run, then scooted a ball down the third base line to plate the rest of the Washington scoring an inning later.
And so, quietly, the Nationals have put a lackluster April behind them, and are just 2.5 games back of first place in the first week of May. With the ever-improving Ross Detwiler set to take the hill Friday night, Washington looks to carry that momentum, led by their pitching, into the Steel City.
5.2.13 – Nationals 3, Braves 1
Stat of the Game: Dan Haren needed just 90 pitches to complete a season-high eight innings of work in earning his second consecutive victory.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span factored in all three Washington scores, finishing 3-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, a run scored and two RBI.
It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano popped out Dan Uggla as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth to earn the series split.
Through the first 23 games of the season, Nationals fans had caught glimpses of the reasons Mike Rizzo pulled the trigger on his three major offseason acquisitions, Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano and Denard Span. But although Haren earned his first Nationals win on April 11, Soriano had converted six of seven save opportunities and Span had shown an early propensity to get on base, none of the three had turned in a starring performance.
That all changed Saturday afternoon, as 38,903 red-adorned fans were treated to a beautiful day of baseball loaded with great pitching, clutch hitting and a pair of spectacular defensive plays.
Haren turned in his strongest start to date, in which he was largely dominant over six solid innings, striking out five Cincinnati batters without a walk. Soriano slammed the door shut on the Reds hopes, fanning two of the three batters he faced in a 1-2-3 ninth. But Span stole the show, leaping into the left-center field wall to rob Joey Votto of extra bases in the sixth, then ranging far to his right to corral a line drive off the bat of Zack Cozart with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, one that looked like it might very well erase Washington’s three-run advantage.
“I got great jumps on both of those balls,” said Span after the game. “The Cozart ball, that was my favorite out of the two today. It’s just fun for me to be able to go out there and show my speed and grab my ball like that in the gap.”
Haren and Span also got the scoring started, each placing two-out, RBI-singles between the Cincinnati defense in consecutive at-bats in the second inning.
With impressive performances all around by the newcomers, one could be forgiven for forgetting Bryce Harper’s team record ninth April home run, which also gave him the franchise mark for RBI (18) in the season’s opening month. And while all that may not have added up to anything nearly as historical as what happened in the first two games of the series, it was a recipe for success in one of the most complete games the Nationals have played so far this year.
“I was kind of disappointed when I gave up the second hit today,” joked Haren about having to follow back-to-back one-hitters as he improved his home record to 2-1 this year. “I finally feel like part of the team. I’ve got to be like this or better the rest of the year.”
If Haren can replicate Saturday’s success on the mound and Span can do the same in the field, Soriano will have that many more opportunities to untuck his jersey after he puts opposing lineups down for the count.
4.27.13 – Nationals 6, Reds 3
Stat of the Game: Bryce Harper‘s fourth-inning home run was his ninth of the year and plated his 17th and 18th RBI, setting club records for the month of April in each category.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span had two hits and made two terrific, run-saving catches in the outfield to preserve the Washington lead.
It Was Over When: Span ranged far to his right to snare a bases-loaded, two-out liner off the bat of Zack Cozart in the seventh, keeping the Nationals ahead by three the rest of the way.
It was only a matter of time.
That was the sentiment expressed by Davey Johnson and echoed from locker to locker throughout the Nationals clubhouse Thursday night following a complete and dominant 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Entering the evening on a four-game losing skid and looking to even the season series with the Reds at 2-2, Washington needed a good showing. They got it out of the gates from ace southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who silenced the powerful Cincinnati lineup. The Reds managed only a single hit through eight frames against Gonzalez, who walked two and struck out seven for his second win of the season.
It was a bit of a perfect storm for the lefty, who, in stark contrast to his 21-win season last year, had struggled to get ahead of hitters in his first four starts of 2013. For whatever reason, though, Gonzalez has always matched up well against the Reds, and he continued his mastery Thursday night.
“My job is to make sure we stay in the game as long possible,” said Gonzalez, who certainly did that, improving to 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA (3 ER/26.0 IP) in four career starts versus Cincinnati. “They’ve got a great hitting lineup…you’ve got to just go out there and trust your stuff.”
Perhaps more surprising, the Nationals offense came to life against a crafty soft-tosser in Bronson Arroyo. When bats are struggling, a pitcher that nibbles with a myriad of crooked deliveries is hardly a recipe for turning things around. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did, led by three-RBI nights from both Danny Espinosa and Denard Span. While Span’s slap-hitting style may have lined up well against Arroyo, it was Espinosa who provided the most crucial hits, plating Ian Desmond for the first run of the game on an RBI-double in the second inning before crushing a two-run shot into the home bullpen to break the game open in the third.
“In the past, I’d probably try to be real aggressive and swing real hard to generate power for the ball,” Espinosa said of facing a pitcher like Arroyo. “But tonight I didn’t. Tonight I let it come to me and just tried to get a good pitch…I thought that was a pretty easy swing on my home run. I thought they were both pretty easy swings.”
While Gonzalez’s adjustment was more about getting back to what worked for him last season, Espinosa’s represents a more significant change from the player with whom most Nationals fans are familiar. All spring, Johnson encouraged his young second baseman to make his swing more compact, an adjustment that led to a .333/.358/.474 Grapefruit League slash line. To date, Espinosa had not been able to carry that success into the regular season, but Thursday night provided a glimpse of what it might look like if he does.
“His goal is to improve every year,” explained Johnson of Espinosa. “I feel like with what he was working on in the spring and what he did in the spring that it’ll start paying off for him.”
Espinosa acknowledged as much, but to see the results of his adjustment play out in a Major League game helped him be more circumspect about his change in approach.
“I was swinging too hard the last two years,” Espinosa explained of his approach. “In the minors, I never swung like that, I don’t know where it came from. I needed to get back to using my hands and not trying to use my legs to generate so much.”
If Gonzalez has regained his feel for the strike zone and Espinosa has found comfort in a simpler swing, it will go a long way in helping the Nationals climb back above .500 and stay there.