Results tagged ‘ Denard Span ’

29 Games Later

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With an 0-for-4 last night, Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak came to an end just shy of matching the Nationals franchise record set by Ryan Zimmerman four seasons ago. And while we here at Curly W Live observed the baseball tradition of not discussing such a streak while it is in progress, we would be remiss not to revisit it in depth, now that it is over.

Only 30 players have compiled streaks as long as Span's since 1941.

Only 30 players have compiled streaks as long as Span’s since 1941.

Span batted .371/.406/.492 and collected seven stolen bases over the 29 games, raising his season slash line to .282/.331/.383 at the end of play Wednesday. His averages are all now within points of his career norms, and he sits just two steals shy of reaching 20 for the third time in his six-year Major League career. With his solid defense in center field, he has contributed a 3.3 fWAR, fourth-highest on the club, between Bryce Harper (3.9) and Zimmerman (2.9).

Not surprisingly, as their streaking leadoff hitter’s fortunes improved, so did the Nationals record. But the fact that Washington went 22-7 in those 29 games (they lost a 3-2 decision in Philadelphia when he entered the game late, but did not bat on September 2) really shines a light on the difference a productive Span makes at the top of the lineup.

But let’s go back to the streak itself to appreciate where it rests in the history of baseball. When Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games in 1941, he set an immeasurably high bar, perhaps the most untouchable of all records in professional sports. In the 72 years since, the reverence attached to the feat has only grown. So impressive is DiMaggio’s mark that, by comparison, only one man has even surpassed the 40-game plateau in the intervening years. That would be Pete Rose, who strung together 44 games with at least one hit in 1978.

Span's streak has put his 2013 numbers in line with his career marks.

Span’s streak has put his 2013 numbers in line with his career marks.

In fact, hitting streaks of any considerable length are exceedingly rare. Most tend to fizzle out in the teens, while anything above 20 becomes noteworthy. Consider that, since 1941, only 30 players in the big leagues have recorded a streak as long as Span’s 29-gamer.

Span’s streak was the longest in the Major Leagues since both Dan Uggla (33) and Andre Ethier (30) both broke the 30-game barrier back in 2011. And, like most quirky baseball items, the streak was not without one notable anomaly: while Span had only a pair of two-hit performances over the streak, he collected three hits six different times and four hits once.

Aside from Rose, Paul Molitor came the closest to the 40-game marker, stretching his 1987 streak to 39 before his next hitless game. Between the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Jimmy Rollins recorded a hit in 38 consecutive contests and Tommy Holmes logged a 37-game hitting streak in 1945. In 1949, DiMaggio’s brother, Dom, put together a 34-game run.

Here’s a look at all hitting streaks of at least 29 games since 1941:

40+ games: Pete Rose (’78, CIN) 44.

35-39 games: Paul Molitor (’87, MIL) 39, Jimmy Rollins (’05-’06, PHI) 38, Tommy Holmes (’45, BOS-NL) 37, Luis Castillo (’02, FLA) 35, Chase Utley (’06, PHI) 35.

31-34 games: Dom DiMaggio (’49, BOS) 34, Benito Santiago (’87, SD) 34, Dan Uggla (’11, ATL) 33, Willie Davis (’69, LAD) 31, Rico Carty (’70, ATL) 31, Ken Landreaux (’80, MIN) 31, Vladimir Guerrero (’99, MON) 31.

29-30 games: Stan Musial (’50, STL) 30, Ron LeFlore (’76, DET) 30, Nomar Garciaparra (’97, BOS) 30, Sandy Alomar Jr. (’97, CLE) 30, Eric Davis (’98, BAL) 30, Luis Gonzalez (’99, ARI) 30, Albert Pujols (’03, STL) 30, Willy Tavares (’06, HOU) 20, Moises Alou (’07, NYM) 30, Ryan Zimmerman (’09, WAS) 30, Andre Ethier (’11, LAD) 30, Joe Gordon (’42, NYY) 29, Harry Walker (’43, STL) 29, Ken Boyer (’59, STL) 29, Rowland Office (’76, ATL) 29, Johnny Damon (’05, BOS) 29, Denard Span (’13, WAS) 29.

Improbabilities and Impossibilities

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by Noah Frank

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – Vince Lombardi

It is not impossible for the Nationals to make it to the postseason this year. The strange twists and turns of this season have left them looking up a steep hill, at tall odds stacked heavily against them. And while not impossible, the chance of them crashing the party remains highly improbable. Which is to say that they will need a number of improbabilities to swing their way, in succession, to defy those odds.

They got off to a good start on Tuesday.

Facing the prospects of a crushing loss in the opening game of the twinbill against the Braves, the Nationals did something no team has done in Craig Kimbrel’s 225 career appearances, scoring the three runs they needed to erase a two-run deficit to walk off with a 6-5 win. The Baseball Reference win probability chart had the Nats at eight percent to win in such a scenario entering the bottom of the ninth.

Leverage

The comeback was made even more amazing, and the result even more unlikely than the probabilities suggest, considering that Washington had yet to score against the Atlanta closer his 10 prior appearances against them this season. He had converted 37 straight save opportunities, a string that was going to end as soon as the ball left Denard Span’s bat, as his one-out grounder was going to be deep enough to score the tying run. But as Andrelton Simmons – the highest-rated defensive shortstop in baseball – pulled his glove up, the ball skipping untouched through his legs, the Nationals found themselves celebrating an even more unbelievable victory.

Denard Span keyed another improbable Nationals victory.

Denard Span keyed another improbable Nationals victory in game one.

The long odds didn’t end in game one, though. After Tanner Roark, perhaps the unlikeliest figure in this late season charge, delivered seven scoreless frames in the nightcap, Washington clung to a 1-0 lead heading to the bottom of the eighth. The Braves turned to Jordan Walden, who had allowed just one run in eight prior appearances against the Nats, coming on a solo shot by Ryan Zimmerman. The Z-Man took an encore roundtripper to double the lead, then Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche combined to plate two more runs as the Nationals put the game away.

Against the two relievers who had dominated them the most this season, the Nationals suddenly broke through for three runs apiece. Coming in, Walden and Kimbrel had combined to go 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA (1 ER/18.0 IP), four walks, 22 strikeouts and a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances in the season series. On Tuesday, they were 0-1 with a 22.50 ERA (5 ER/2.0 IP), with two walks, no strikeouts and a blown save.

While Washington has no realistic chance to catch Atlanta in the division, the two wins ensured the Braves could not clinch the NL East in Washington this week. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds have continued to win in Houston, lowering the Nationals postseason chances to 3.3 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus, heading into play on Wednesday. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have lost two straight, bringing them back into the picture as well. In order to tie the Reds or Pirates and force a one-game playoff to get to the Wild Card game, the Nationals would need to play out their remaining games with one of the following combinations from their opponents:

Improbabilities

While it seems unlikely that teams like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, clubs which have played well all season, will collapse entirely, any of the top three combinations seem possible. Yes, it would require the Nationals to keep playing at the same rate they have over their last 12 games (in which they are 11-1) against stronger competition, including three games in St. Louis.

These are not probable outcomes. But, then again, after what happened on Tuesday at Nationals Park, we know that improbable does not equal impossible.

Highlights: 9.17.13

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9.17.13 Game One – Nationals 6, Braves 5

Stat of the Game: The Nationals became the first team to score three runs against Craig Kimbrel in his 225 career appearances.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Dan Haren twirled six strong innings of one-run ball and left with a 3-1 lead.

It Was Over When: Denard Span‘s grounder up the middle split the wickets on Andrelton Simmons to score the winning run.

9.17.13 Game Two – Nationals 4, Braves 0

Stat of the Game: Tanner Roark dominated once again, tossing seven scoreless frames en rout to his seventh win, lowering his ERA to 1.08.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman blasted his 10th home run in his last 15 games, giving him 25 on the season for the fourth time in his career.

It Was Over When: Washington added three insurance runs in the ninth inning to put the game away.

What to Watch for: 9.17.13 – Game Two

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Atlanta Braves (89-61) vs. Washington Nationals (80-70)

RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 1.32) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (6-0, 1.30)

(Note: Garcia is 4-6, 4.86 overall on the year)

In Game One of today’s twin bill, the Nationals jumped out to an early lead, only to watch Atlanta storm back to take a 5-3 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth. Winless in six tries at home against the Braves this season, the Nationals put themselves in a position where they needed at least two runs to keep the game alive. Instead, they got three, becoming the first team in 225 tries to do as much damage against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

Adam LaRoche led off with a walk and Wilson Ramos followed by grinding out an eight-pitch at-bat, fighting back from 0-2 to drive a ball up the middle that second baseman Elliot Johnson got a glove to, but could not flip accurately to second base for the force. Jeff Kobernus ran for Ramos at first and Anthony Rendon drew another walk to load the bases with no outs for pinch-hitter Chad Tracy. The left-handed hitter pulled a hard chopper to first base, allowing LaRoche to score and cut the lead to one, the runners moving up to second and third.

Enter, Denard Span.

The center fielder had already extended his hitting streak to a career-high 27 games earlier in the afternoon, matching the longest streak in baseball this season. After taking ball one, he hit a grounder back up the middle, where the Braves defense was not playing in – playing not to lose, rather than to win. While the tying run would have scored on the play regardless, shortstop Andrelton Simmons pulled up on the ball, as it skipped through his legs untouched. Rendon motored around third to score behind Kobernus, and the Nationals snagged an enormous, 6-5 victory.

“I knew when I hit the ball, the game was tied for sure,” said Span after the raucous celebration on the Nationals Park infield. “For us to be able to get a win like that against their closer, and on our home field, it just felt really good.”

The win improved Washington’s record to 80-70, putting the Nats 10 games above .500 for the first time all season. It also staved off Atlanta’s chance to clinch the division title for another day, the NL East Magic Number remaining at four and the Reds second Wild Card elimination number still at eight.

Right-hander Tanner Roark will take the hill against veteran Freddy Garcia in the nightcap of the doubleheader.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche  1B

7. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

8. Jhonatan Solano C

9. Tanner Roark RHP

HEAR ME, ROARK

Tanner Roark has been brilliant since his call up from Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 6-0 record in 11 appearances. Roark has won each of his first two starts, allowing two earned runs in 12.0 innings of work. He sports a 1.30 ERA overall (5 ER/34.2 IP) with 26 strikeouts and just eight walks.

WE’RE GOING STREAKING

Denard Span extended his career-best hitting streak to 27 straight games in Game One, matching Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer for the longest in Major League Baseball this year

Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos will see his stretch of consecutive starts behind the plate come to an end a 24 games with Jhonatan Solano in at catcher in Game Two. The streak is two games longer than the next closest in baseball this season (Yadier Molina, 22).

What to Watch for: 9.17.13 – Game One

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Atlanta Braves (89-60) vs. Washington Nationals (79-70)

LHP Mike Minor (13-7, 3.15) vs. RHP Dan Haren (9-13, 5.02)

After tying a season-high with 18 hits in an 11-2 victory over the Phillies on Sunday, the Nationals look to continue their hot hitting in the first game of today’s twin bill with the Braves. Dan Haren takes the mound for Washington, one start removed from claiming a 3-0 victory over the Mets in which he allowed just one hit and struck out eight in 6.0 innings.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche  1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Dan Haren RHP

BEST BALL

Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (25-10, .714). In that span, the Nationals lead the National League in runs scored (191) and run differential (+60). The Nats have won seven of eight series since taking three of four games at Wrigley Field, August 19-22.

HOMER HAPPY

At the completion of play on September 1, when the Nationals departed for their most-recent road trip, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the NL with 15 home runs. In the two weeks and 13 games later, Zimmerman has tallied nine long balls and is currently ranked eighth in the NL with a team-best 24 homers. Zimmerman’s nine September homers are tied with San Francisco’s Hunter Pence for the MLB lead. Wilson Ramos (six) ranks third on that same September list, while no other big leaguer has more than five.

STRINGING ‘EM TOGETHER

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 26 straight games at a .387 (43-for-111) clip with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 18 runs scored, eight RBI and five stolen bases. His streak is both the second longest in MLB this year (Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30-games, April 8-May 12, 2009). Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos has started a Nationals record and MLB season-high 23 consecutive games behind the plate. Ramos is batting .261 (23-for-88) with seven home runs and 24 RBI during his string of starts, which began on August 22 at Wrigley Field. Washington is playing .739 (17-6) ball during that stretch.

What to Watch for: 9.15.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (69-79) vs. Washington Nationals (78-70)

RHP Tyler Cloyd (2-4, 4.56) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (17-8, 3.36)

The Nationals saw their season-high seven-game winning streak come to an end Saturday night, but they can still take the series with a Sunday victory over the Phillies in the teams’ final meeting this season. Washington has already claimed the season series and owns a 26-19 record against their closest geographical division rivals under manager Davey Johnson. Jordan Zimmermann takes aim at his National League-leading 18th win against fellow right-hander Tyler Cloyd.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

ATTENTION: SPAN

Denard Span went 3-for-5 with a career-high three stolen bases to extend his hitting streak to 25 straight games. Over that stretch, he is batting .387 with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 18 runs scored and seven RBI. Of Span’s eight multi-hit performances during the streak, he has tallied a four-hit game, six three-hit games, and a single two-hit effort. The streak is both the second longest in Major League Baseball this year (Michael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30-games, April 8-May 12, 2009).

NAT WERTH

Jayson Werth currently ranks among the National League’s top five in OPS (second, .933), slugging percentage (second, .536), batting average (fourth, .321) and on-base percentage (fifth, .397). Werth joins Andrew McCutchen as the only NL players to rank among the league’s top five in each of those four categories. Werth has hit better than .300 in July (.367), August (.380) and September (.308).

IRON MAN WITH THE MASK

Wilson Ramos has started a Nationals record 22 consecutive games behind the plate. With today’s start in the series finale against the Phillies, he will surpass Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina for the longest stretch of consecutive games started by a catcher in Major League Baseball this season.

Highlights: 9.13.13

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9.13.13 – Nationals 6, Phillies 1

Stat of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman hit his team-leading 24th home run, his ninth in his last 11 games.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a sixth-inning single.

It Was Over When: Wilson Ramos‘ bases-loaded, infield single in the fifth inning scored Jayson Werth from third and Bryce Harper all the way from second.

What to Watch for: 9.13.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (68-78) vs. Washington Nationals (77-69)

RHP Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3-0, 3.28) 

Lost a bit in the shuffle of Denard Span’s current 23-game hitting streak, another member of the Nationals lineup has put together a noteworthy streak that has not generated nearly the same amount of publicity.

Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, who successfully battled back from hamstring issues earlier in the year, will start his 21st consecutive game behind the plate when the Nationals host the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park. The streak, rare for a catcher in this era, brings him to within two games of breaking the longest streak of the season for a backstop: the 22 games started by perennial Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, from April 20-May 14.

During the streak, Ramos has contributed at a high level both at the plate and behind it. He has hit five home runs and driven in 16 runs, including a trio of blasts in the past five games, while throwing out 6-of-16 baserunners trying to steal. The latter stat is a welcome development, as his 37.5 percent caught stealing rate over the 20-game stretch is nearly triple the 12.9 percent (12-of-93) rate Nationals catchers had compiled entering play August 22, the first day of the streak.

“When I play every day, I like that, because I’m more consistent at the plate,” Ramos said of starting night in and night out.

More importantly, the Nationals have found a groove during Ramos’s run. They are 15-5 in the 20-straight games in which he has started, as his durability has helped offset the August 23 trade of Kurt Suzuki to the Oakland Athletics.

Since he returned from the disabled list on July 4, Ramos has paced all Major League catchers in both home runs (11) and RBI (41), making the most of his 200 plate appearances in that time. And, for the season, the Nationals have compiled a 40-24 record when Ramos starts, proving his value to a team that has otherwise gone 37-45 when he’s not penciled into Davey Johnson’s lineup card.

“I don’t want a day off right now, when I can do well and win a game,” Ramos said. “It feels great. If we win, why not?” 

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

PITCHING, IN DEPTH

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf toes the rubber tonight in place of originally scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg tonight, who was scratched with forearm tightness, but whom Davey Johnson expects to start again on September 19. Washington is 13-7 (.650) in games not started by their Opening Day rotation (Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler). The two replacement starters still currently in the rotation are Ohlendorf (2-0, 3.62 in five starts) and Tanner Roark (2-0, 1.50 in two starts), who are a combined 4-0 as starters and 9-0 overall.

THE LAST ‘STAND

Washington enters the final homestand of the season coming off an 8-2 road trip that has propelled them within 5.5 games of the Cincinnati Reds for the final postseason spot. Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (23-9, .719). In that span, the Nationals have led the National League in runs scored, en route to outscoring their opponents, 170-123. Washington’s current six-game winning streak is the team’s longest of the season.

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 23 straight games at a .385 (37-for-96) clip with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 16 runs scored and 7 RBI. Span’s fifth career double-digit hit streak has raised his season batting average from .258 to .281. The streak includes seven multi-hit performances: a four-hit game, five three-hit games, and a single two-hit effort. Span’s streak is both the second longest in MLB this year (CMichael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30 games, April 8-May 12, 2009).

What to Watch for: 9.12.13

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Washington Nationals (76-69) vs. New York Mets (64-80)

RHP Tanner Roark (5-0, 0.94) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (5-11, 5.76)

Much has been made of Ryan Zimmerman’s adjustments at third base since his offseason shoulder surgery, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Though he’s made 21 errors overall, two shy of his career high, the third baseman has committed just four in his last 34 games, while adding to his career highlight reel with some spectacular plays.

On Saturday night in Miami, he made this tremendous play, ranging to his backhand, then spinning and throwing mid-air while falling into foul territory to get the runner at first.

Two nights ago, late in a one-run game, he laid out to stop a hot shot, bounced back to his feet and nabbed a speedy runner by a couple steps.

Then, Wednesday night, he turned in a pair of defensive gems. First, he showed off his reflexes with a great backhand stop, and followed it up with this charging, barehanded grab and throw.

As Zimmerman’s defense has improved, so has his production at the plate. He opened the scoring with a home run Wednesday night, his fifth in his last five games. It is no coincidence that Washington has won each of those games, matching the longest winning stretch for the team this season and elevating the club to a season-high seven games over .500.

“I don’t know if one has anything to do with the other,” said Zimmerman about his offense and defense both improving simultaneously. “But I say it all the time – baseball is contagious.”

Another thing Zimmerman has reminded the media of throughout the season is the tendency for the players on hot or cold streaks to return to the norm by season’s end; that they usually settle around their career numbers. Zimmerman, a career .286/.353/.477 hitter who has averaged 22 home runs over the past seven years, is currently batting .275/.348/.462. His home run on Wednesday was his 22nd of the season.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Tanner Roark RHP

FIVE FOR FIGHTING

The Nationals have won five straight games and are 7-2 on their current 11-day, 10-game road trip entering Thursday’s series finale. Washington has also won seven-of-eight, 16-of-21, and is 22-9 since entering play on August 16. With 17 games remaining in the regular season, the Nationals trial the Reds by six games, five in the loss column.

DR. JEKYLL & MR. HAREN

After struggling to a 4-10 mark and a 5.61 ERA before the All-Star break, Dan Haren has been better in the season’s second half, flashing signs of brilliance, as he did Wednesday night. Overall, Haren sports a 5-3 record (with a save) and a 3.68 ERA (26 ER/63.2 IP) since the break.

CATCH-22

The number 22 was the number of the night for Washington. Ryan Zimmerman blasted his 22nd home run of the season, which was also his fifth in as many games. Denard Span extended his career-high hitting streak to 22 games with a third-inning double. And Anthony Rendon’s two-out, two-run double in the eighth was his 22nd of the 2013 campaign.

Highlights: 9.11.13

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9.11.13 – Nationals 3, Mets 0

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren limited the Mets to a single hit over six scoreless frames, striking out eight.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman hit his fifth home run in as many games and Denard Span extended his hit streak to 22 games.

It Was Over When: Anthony Rendon added a pair of key insurance runs with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth.

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