Sep 18, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT
In many ways, the Nationals’ late-season surge has helped keep Denard Span’s mind where it should be. Right now, he can’t worry about his own individual performance, not when his team needs to win just about every game left on the schedule to reach the postseason.
Perhaps that has allowed Span to remain relaxed at the plate and not start feeling the pressure of his ongoing hit streak, which after last night’s doubleheader has reached an impressive 28 games.
“I’ve tried not to really think about it, to be honest,” he said. “We’ve been playing good baseball, and that’s been more important to me than the hitting streak: Us winning games. I’m just happy that I’ve been able to contribute to us winning some games.”
Span has done more than his fair share to help the Nationals win 22 of the 28 games during his streak. He’s hitting .378 over this stretch, producing an average of 1.6 hits per game.
And now he’s starting to earn the attention not only of his clubhouse but of the entire baseball world. By notching singles in each game of yesterday’s doubleheader sweep of he Braves, Span became the first major-league player in two seasons to extend a hitting streak to 28 games.
Only 10 players have produced longer hitting streaks since 2000, leaving Span in some elite company.
“It’s hard to get hits in the big leagues, let alone one every single day for 20-something days,” teammate Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s a cool thing to be a part of. He should be proud of it. It’s something not a whole lot of people do.”
Zimmerman is one of the few who truly can appreciate Span’s feat, having produced a club-record 30-game hit streak in 2009. He won’t mind one bit if he has to cede his record in the next few days.
“Span is one of those guys who struggled at the beginning of the year and kept working his butt off,” Zimmerman said. “To be where he’s at now, this is the kind of guy we knew he could be. I hope he breaks the big record. Nobody will root for him more than the guys in here.”
Span is well aware he’s fast-approaching Zimmerman’s mark.
“I’ve heard, I’ve heard,” he said. “I try not to think about that, either. Just one day at a time. I’m at 28; let’s just see what happens tomorrow.”
Span has taken care of business early in just about every game during his streak, rarely waiting until the later innings to get on the board. He kept that trend up yesterday, sending a sharp single up the middle in the bottom of the second inning of the doubleheader opener, earning plenty of applause from the smattering of fans who showed up for the makeup game.
Span needed a bit more time in the nightcap, but he still notched his hit in the bottom of the fifth with a single to left. He celebrated each of his hits yesterday by stealing second base.
“I think he trusts his swing,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “He trusts his approach, and he’s not going back and forth now with different approaches, different swings. I just see a consistent guy who has got a ton of confidence right now. Yeah, 28 games is unbelievable.”
Yet not anywhere close to the ultimate record Span is attempting to chase down. Though he has now gone a full month without even one 0-fer — the streak began on Aug. 17 — he’s only halfway to Joe DiMaggio’s all-time record, 56-game hit streak.
That boggles Span’s mind.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “That just shows what type of player [DiMaggio was]. Twenty-eight days getting a hit feels like an eternity, but to do it pretty much for two months straight is unbelievable. That just shows why he is one of the greatest players ever to play this game.”
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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MON: 12:45 p.m.
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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