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Span saves the day

Aug 15, 2013, 5:03 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

The Nationals went out of their way to acquire Denard Span over the winter, first and foremost, because they believed he would fill a much-needed void atop their lineup.

In that regard, Span’s first season in Washington has been a disappointment. He hasn’t reached base enough for a leadoff hitter, and when he has reached, he hasn’t run the bases as well as hoped.

Which isn’t to suggest Span hasn’t been valuable to the Nationals in 2013, especially in the field. Teammates and fans alike have marveled all year at the center fielder’s ability to track down balls few others would even approach. And Wednesday night, everyone in attendance at Nationals Park saw firsthand how one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders can literally win a game with his glove.

With one mad dash from his position shaded toward right-center field to a point just shy of the warning track in left-center, Span robbed Hunter Pence of a double that would have completed a ninth-inning rally by the Giants against Rafael Soriano. Instead, by diving to snag Pence’s line drive and holding the ball ever-so-carefully in his glove, Span recorded the final out of a wild, 6-5 Nationals victory and afforded 30,657 fans and a dugout full of anxious teammates the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief and then offer a roar of approval.

“Whew,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Heck of a play.”

“Unbelievable,” shortstop Ian Desmond added. “He’s been amazing all year long. Him being in the American League, we never really got to see him that much. But, best center fielder I’ve ever seen.”
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  1. sjm308 - Aug 15, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    Hey, hey!This is really a great way to start the day.Very happy that moving to a new country.did not affect the SJM streak.Scanned comments & I am wondering what has happened to WODL.Shame that certain people only post when things are going poorly.Off to tour Zagreb Go Nats!!

  2. Laddie Blah Blah - Aug 15, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Span saved the pen from what would otherwise have been another embarrassing meltdown. He has been the best defender on the Nats all season long.I read the comments on the last thread about Matheus and his apparent immaturity. It reminded me of Storen's attitude, earlier in the year, when he was sent down.And then I thought of Dan Haren. No one on the staff has had to deal with more adversity this year than Haren. No one could have possibly handled it better than he did. I wonder if observing how Haren handled his situation helped mature SS this year. Strasburg seems to have grown and matured this year, and is both a better man and a better pitcher for it. Maybe Haren had something to do with that. Too bad the same magic didn't rub off on either Storen or Matheus.I would love for Haren to finish strong, and get to a winning record by season's end. He wants to be near his family, again, next year, so he probably won't be back with the Nats. Regardless, he has made a fan out of me.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Good post, LBB.

  4. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Can we take up a collection to keep sjm308 of of the country until, oh, I don't know, say November 1? Love you, sjm, but…Question: How come the Nats didn't play like this when I was out of the country for 2+ weeks in June/July?

  5. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I'm in, Candide. (Love ya, sjm.)Watched this one in real time, and that catch was Spantastic! Nice work by Tarasco and Zuk on the postgame splashing. Still don't know who was manning the other side of the cooler last night, along with the bat boy, but I wondered whether it was also a coach. Oh, and Timmy? You can wash that cap now. I'm pretty sure it's not lucky.

  6. MrsB loves the Nats - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Candide – Just tell me where to mail the check.. or which game I should bring the money too… Im all in for that…What a heckuva game last night.. I had to follow it on gameday (and forgot to record it, grrr) becuz I was at work… But I was in the car and heard C&D describe that catch by Span… just unbelievable and then I saw the replay when I got home… Just beautiful…Its a shame that the BP (save Clip and Krol) couldnt seal the deal and had to add unnecessarily drama… But I am glad we got the win…I will be on a plane this evening when the game comes on.. Glad we got the series but the sweep would be even more better!

  7. Rabbit34 - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    The Nats didn't look good in this win. After a 6-1 lead, to need that Span catch is not too comforting. But, they have been improving a little and may be on a positive roll for next season. A few on-field changes and being more relaxed next year should help.

  8. Scott Margenau - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Didn't FP say something bout how soriano doesn't have a strike em out pitch? Anyone hear that?

  9. m - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    SJM :Why not enjoy the win and comment on the game instead of taking a shot at some poster. It was great that Span made the catch. I have no complaints about Span's fielding in fact I am fan of his play. At the same time I am no fan of hitting. Despite his inept hitting last night he was instrumental in the win and he should be lauded for that . I would like to see another win today. What would really grab my attention would a sweep of Atlanta.

  10. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Scott, yes, FP did say something to that effect.

  11. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Yup, natsfan1a is absolutely right. Would be nice to have a lights-out closer, none of this pitch-to-contact crap. My heart can't take this kind of stuff…Jeeze, what happened to our bullpen over the winter (rhetorical question)?

  12. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    I believe that 'm' is the perpetrator of the "automatic out" description for the guy with the second most hits on the Nats.

  13. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    We interrupt this discussion for a bit of unfinished ID business. After review, I believe it was Z'nn in the Zuk splashing. Yeah, some Z on Z action. Carry on.Still don't know who was manning the other side of the cooler last night, along with the bat boy, but I wondered whether it was also a coach.

  14. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    ICYMI: MicheleS got this great shot of RZim at last night's game. Angels in the infield?

  16. Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    The "some poster" has painted a virtual bullseye on his own back by his redundant anti-Span posts.

  17. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee.Candide said… ICYMI: MicheleS got this great shot of RZim at last night's game. Angels in the infield? August 15, 2013 7:56 AM

  18. Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Candide, thanks for the link to Michele's great pic

  19. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    How soon we forget. Soriano had a string of six scoreless appearances before last night. He gave up 2 hits and 1 walk during that period.

  20. MicheleS - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    That picture is actually from Tuesday Night's game. have a bunch more posted up there as well. Hopefully will get more today.

  21. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    BTW, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Cunegonde is a modified LoDer. She doesn't think the Nats are a bad team, or that they'll be lucky to win 80 games, or anything like that.There's macro-economics and micro-economics, and there's macro-LoD and micro-LoD. Macro LoD: "This team stinks." "They'll be lucky to win 80 games." "Rizzo needs to be fired, RZimm traded, LaRoche benched, Davey retired…"Cunegonded, OTOH, is micro-LoD. Sure as God made baseball, sometime, early in the game, she's going to say something along the lines of, "I have a bad feeling," or "They're going to lose, I just know it."Two strikes on a Nats batter? "He's going to strike out…"I find myself saying, "Relax, we got this" (copyright 2013 J. Seamhead, Inc.) even when I have my own doubts, just to buck her up.Last night, top of the ninth, two outs, two on. "I'm sorry, I can't watch this. I'm going upstairs."Ten seconds later – I swear, just TEN SECONDS – I'm yelling "WOO-HOOOOOOOOO!!!!" and running up the stairs yelling for her to come down for the replay of Span's catch.I'm sure this afternoon would be the same, except she probably won't be home until the game's over.

  22. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    That's okay, Candide. My husband has similar reactions. That said, he's attended a lot of s*cky games with me over the years, and stayed 'til the last out, so he's paid his dues. :-)

  23. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Candide said… I'm sure this afternoon would be the same, except she probably won't be home until the game's over.Actually, I won't be home until it's over either. Just printed off ticket for today's game. Section 222, in case anyone wants to get together pre-game.

  24. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Have fun, Candide. I need to get the house ready for guests from out of town.

  25. bowdenball - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    NatsLady said…"How soon we forget. Soriano had a string of six scoreless appearances before last night. He gave up 2 hits and 1 walk during that period."Sure, but it's clear that he's not the pitcher he once was. His K rate has dropped precipitously even from last year and his fastball speed is on a steady decline as well. It's reason for concern since the team is presumably using him to close again next year.In brighter news: I see lots of people lamenting the fact that we haven't made up ground on the Reds, but we HAVE made up ground on the Cardinals, who are now only a half game ahead of the Reds. It's a lot easier to catch one of two teams from 8-9 games back then if you have to depend on only one team to falter. Obviously it's still very unlikely, but people shouldn't feel like we're not making up ground or improving our chances, we definitely are.

  26. bowdenball - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Plus we still have a three game series left against the Cardinals at the end of the season.

  27. Doc - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Davey says he's looking for bullpen help.Yo Drew, get it together sport. We've got some work for you.I guess Christian Garcia is still on his never-ending DL.

  28. MicheleS - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Candide, where you sitting today?

  29. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    222 M 14. You still in the high-class seats?

  30. m - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    NatsJack ( aka – Self Proclaimed Resident Baseball Expert aka – SPRBE). The fact that Span has the second most hits on the team tells me how inept this team has become in hitting. Now I will wait for the SPRBE to tell me how great this team is when it comes to hitting.

  31. MicheleS - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    Ah, nope, the high class seats were a one time only, will be in 112 AA today, be on the look out for me.

  32. bowdenball - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    m said…"NatsJack ( aka – Self Proclaimed Resident Baseball Expert aka – SPRBE). The fact that Span has the second most hits on the team tells me how inept this team has become in hitting."There's six regular starters with higher batting averages than Span. They've just all spent time on the DL, plus Span gets more chances because he leads off, so they haven't totaled as many hits on the year because they haven't gotten the chances.There's a difference between being a reasonable pessimist and being an unreasonable annoyance. Ignoring basic facts like that when you make your argument crosses the line.

  33. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    I'm not the greatest Rafael Soriano fan, but, fair's fair. He's not the reason for the team's mediocre record. He's done his job, better than a lot of closers. The problem with "lights out" guys is they blow out their arms/shoulders. We'll see about next year.

  34. bowdenball - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    He's certainly not to blame for our problems at all, NatsLady. I was just saying that there's a legitimate basis for FP's comments yesterday. He said a reliever who loses the ability to miss bats as Soriano has is asking for trouble, and he's right.The best-run teams never spend money on closers. The As, the Rays, the Tigers, the Cardinals, the Rangers- none of them ever sign free agent closers, because they know there's always a young fireballer or a converted starter in your system that can get the job done.

  35. bowdenball - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    I shouldn't have included the Rangers in that- forgot they signed Nathan on a one year deal this year. I believe that was out of character for them, just as the Soriano deal was out of character for us.

  36. Doc - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Correctomundo, NL.Soriano has done what he has been paid to do.Of course, Soriano is not a member of the swing & miss fratenity. By the way over the past several years Clip, is a member in good standing of that fraternity, and has lead a lot of those guys in K's not named Craig Kimbrel. I'm kinda thinking with you that Soriano might drop off a bit next year, now that the other guys know what's coming across the plate. Span made a great catch last night, but that ball was really smacked!

  37. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Interesting discussion on Rafael Soriano. He's another relief pitcher who gets rattled once a runner is on base. Luck went the Nats way in the end last night. His success rate on saves is excellent. For closers its not always how you got there but the S next to your name in the newspaper the next day.I wonder if Davey rests Soriano today. Also wonder what he does with Mattheus who wasn't ready for his callup.

  38. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    bowdenball, good analysis on the Nats batting averages. Hit totals are a meaningless stat until you factor in chances which is why batting average, OBP, Slugging are better indicators of batter value.

  39. bowdenball - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said…"Interesting discussion on Rafael Soriano. He's another relief pitcher who gets rattled once a runner is on base."Soriano with the bases empty: .298 obp against. With runners on base: .278 obp against. With runners is scoring position: .233 obp against.Soriano has been a closer or high-leverage reliever in this league for the better part of a decade. He's got a WHIP of 0.583 in 12 postseason innings. I'm fairly certain he doesn't get rattled when a guy gets on base in a mid-August game between two sub-.500 teams.

  40. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    MicheleS said…will be in 112 AA today, be on the look out for me.Heh – last time I tried improving my seats down there, I got chased out within seconds.I figure to get to the park around 2:30 – can hang out at the 312 picnic tables before the game. I think they sell beer nearby :-) Don't know what you look like (think we might have talked at Mark's downtown NI get-together last year), but I'll be wearing the blue jersey, red cap, and a burgundy backpack.Else, if you want to text me when/if you think the coast is clear to come down to 112, my number is 703732-two-seven-one-eight.

  41. Joe Seamhead - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I was the one that mentioned last week that Span was 2nd on the team in hits. I also was clear that I had no point in the post other than that I was surprised. Span has, in my opinion, helped dramatically to keep many of pitcher's ERA's lower then they might be with a lesser centerfielder.

  42. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said… bowdenball, good analysis on the Nats batting averages. Hit totals are a meaningless stat until you factor in chances which is why batting average, OBP, Slugging are better indicators of batter value.Span and Harper both have the same batting average – .262 – and Span has more hits. Ergo, Span is the better hitter.A reasoned take on the issue can be found here.

  43. sjm308 - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Candide: you kinda stole my thunder. I have been in secret talks with Mark to get his plans from the early days of Insider. I think I sent something small that first year and if you all can start to get that ready, I am willing and able. It won't take much. Just had lunch w/ 2 excellent beers, 2 glasses of wine + two fantastic entrees for $26 American. (146 kuna).As for m, if he can't see the number of posts being smaller when we are winning, then he is not paying attention (he does not need to donate to the Sjm fund). As for missing in action, I enjoyed sparing verbally with him and honestly wonder why he is MIA?m – one last thing, hard to analyze a game that is going on while I am 5000 miles away and sleeping. I am just rejoicing in their good fortune and the happiness of many insiders so give it and yourself a break and try to smile.Go Nats!

  44. Doc - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Seams,I'm with you on Span.Notwithstanding criticisms of Span's hitting lead-off, the guy can flat out take care of balls hit to CF. Desi says he's the best that he has seen.He saved Soriano's kiester, and a win for the Nats, last night. I love watching him go after a ball—it's like baseball poetry!

  45. natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Now, that's funny.A reasoned take on the issue can be found here.

  46. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Somebody posted this in response to Mark's tweet about how FanGraphs still has work to do on defensive metrics:Chris Williams ‏@slimceeVA 11h@ZuckermanCSN likely because so many of his amazing catches come from poor breaks to the ball + below avg arm. Though tonight was incredibleThe most "amazing" thing about Denard's catches is that he makes them look so un-amazing. I've gotten to the point where if a ball is hit to center field, my only concern is that it not go over the wall, because otherwise, Denard will be there to catch it, and he won't even make it look hard. You don't have to dive very often if you're good at positioning and reading the ball off the bat.I read somewhere that you'll search in vain for footage of Joe DiMaggio making diving catches, because he always knew where to play and always got a good jump. I've also read that DiMaggio was supposed to be a pretty fair outfielder. I dunno, never saw him play…

  47. mick - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    So I tune in on my MLB package from the 5th inning on and feeling really good about J Zim and the 5th inning and the assumable 5 game winning streak. Then Mattheus and Soriano…I was having a Fred G Sanford moment until Span showed what a stud defensive player he is!!So after a win, let me state that Soriano has not been good since the all star break and Mattheus probably was not ready to come back both physically and mentally. I am beginning to think Mattheus is a bigger head case than Storen. Oh, and Clip is an All Star.

  48. mick - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Span is damn good in the outfield, but my money is still on the Say Hey Kid!!!

  49. mick - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    also, Reggie Smith was very very good too with BoSox

  50. Candide - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    mick, I didn't know we were having a contest…

  51. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    bowdenball, Soriano's sample sizes are still small enough that if Span doesn't get that ball his RISP OBP jumps 25 points and ERA goes above 3. As I said further in my post, it's not always how you get there but the end result. 31 saves is what he is here for.

  52. mick - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Candide Span's play just reminds me of Willi Mays and Reggie Smith…its a compliment

  53. mick - Aug 15, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Ghosttrue, but why do I turn into old Fred Sanford every time Soriano pitches?lol

  54. Kiterp - Aug 15, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    Bowdenball…right you are. Getting StL back in the pack is good news. Nats play them and Arizona to end the season, providing a little more control of their own destiny down the road. A couple weeks ago everyone was saying the wildcard race was a race for just one spot …. no one would ever catch StL. Things have changed. Reds and StL will beat each other up. Arizona has 7 games against the Reds and Pitt. Nats have to stay hot and they have to win series against the better clubs but still being 8.5 back isn’t that bad. As for Soriano, he seems to have problems in the offer counts, especially 0-2. Not so sure he doesn’t have a strike out pitch … think he just gets too impatient

  55. JamesFan - Aug 15, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    Span is a great acquisition period. Don't knock his hitting unless you give the same to those with BA in his range: Harper, Zimmerman, Desi, Rendon and those guys are not slugging enough to offset the association. LaRoche is 30 points lower and also is not slugging. The offensive problems this year have nothing to do with Span.We have a sensational defensive centerfielder who is hitting close to .270 with the potential next year to go significantly higher. Span has been one of the best players on the team this year. Give him his due.

  56. The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. - Aug 15, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Span and Harper both have the same batting average – .262 – and Span has more hits.Ergo, Span is the better hitter.Ergo, Harper has been the bigger disappointment.

  57. Mr Baseball - Aug 15, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Mick,When you are talking about CF"S, don't forget Jimmy Piersall. He was as good as anyone on defense.

  58. William O. Douglas Loeffler - Aug 15, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    That is so stupid. I don't come on here every time that Span strikes out or goes on an 0-16 stretch. It was a nice catch, by a nice guy, who is unlikely to have the offensive punch to start for a World Series contender.I hope Span is back next year as a back-up. I think he could fill Bernadina's role much more capably. He does not, however, have the hitting or running skills to be a solution for Washington, especially given his lack of power.As far as things going well, well, the Nats have gained no ground recently, even though they are inching back to respectability. I think they need to have the goal of getting solidly above .500 by September 1st, and then just see what happens. If they could get to five over by then, and then go 20 and 10 for the month, then who knows. It is a long shot, but Arizona is not that great and who knows, maybe Cincy or the Cards will collapse.I do hope we can win at least two more in a row, so that a single loss wouldn't put us back under .500.

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