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Span again the spark in Nats’ win

Aug 21, 2014, 9:11 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

It has become an almost nightly occurrence for the Nationals to find themselves tied late in a game, whether it be the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings. Night after night after night, the Nationals have been put in position to have one pitch decide the outcome of an entire day.

On Thursday the Nats were locked in a scoreless tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth. Another chance for a walk-off after four in the previous five days. Déjà vu once again.

Denard Span came up second in the inning and as he’s done all year – but especially in recent weeks – he got the Nationals started with a one-out single. Then he stole second, his 27th steal of the season which established a new career-high.

“I really don’t have the correct or the right words to say what the feeling is,” he said. “Other than saying that we just feel confident, that somehow, someway, we’re going to inch [out] a victory.”

The next batter, Anthony Rendon, then put a ball in play to third baseman Jordan Pacheco. It was a tough angle for Pacheco and Rendon could tell off the bat.

“I knew I had a chance. He wasn’t playing in on the grass like they were last night,” he said.

What happened next, though, wasn’t as predictable. Pacheco’s throw to first bounced in front of Mark Trumbo and got past his glove. The ball skipped into the camera well behind first base and went out of play.

Span, who was standing on third waiting for a signal from the umpires, was awarded home plate and another win for the Nationals, their 10th straight. That ties a team record and the longest streak in the majors this season.

It was also their fifth walk-off win in six nights. The last team to accomplish that in such short time was the 1986 Astros who did it in five straight games.

Span was once again the star in a Nationals win, but this was a first for him, at least as far as he can remember.

“That’s what guys like me — speed guys — we dream of, getting stolen bases like that in the ninth inning and helping your team win and getting in scoring position like that,” he said. “That’s way more important than stealing two or three bags in first five innings. That was probably my first meaningful bag in my career right there, where I actually stole and put us in a position to win like that.”

Span has talked recently about his improvement in stealing bases and how he has a goal of 30 this season. At 27 and with five weeks left, that milestone is certainly attainable.

Span gives much of the credit to Nationals’ first base coach Tony Tarasco who helps him both before and during games with scouting reports on opposing pitchers and catchers. Once again, Tarasco played a role in this one.

Here was the gameplan for Diamondbacks reliever Evan Marshall, who was on the mound at the time:

“Tony gave me the rundown on the scouting report, basically, on [Marshall], and told me his times to the plate on a slidestep and his regular leg kick. And then he just told me, he left it in my hands, he told me ‘If you think you can get it, go get it.’ I walked off a little bit in between, as the guy was warming up, and I kind of just had to put on my alter ego and talk myself into it and get in that zone. And I was just ready and I was able to get a good jump.”

An alter ego? Yeah, an alter ego. Span said one of his best friends made it up a while back.

“Denard is the guy that is passive, the guy that is afraid to make a mistake,” Span said. “Then he says ‘Span is the guy that is a playmaker. Span is the smooth guy, the guy that would talk to a girl.’ It’s like the Urkel and the Stefan [from Family Matters]. I just had to walk off and kind of hype myself up for a second. And then I came back to first and was: ‘let’s go.’”

Whoever it is on the basepaths this year, whether it’s ‘Denard’ or ‘Span,’ the guy is making a huge difference for the Nationals. Span is getting very close to 30 stolen bases and he knows it.

“Hey man, take one bag at a time. What do we got, three more? Of course you know how bad I want to get it.”

  1. stoatva - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    The Urkel and The Stefon. That’ll stick.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      So long as it isn’t Tony Plush.

      • scbilly - Aug 22, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Two comments in. Not bad.

  2. natsfan1a - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    Span’s the man. That is all.

  3. rayvil01 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    All teams need a good leadoff man. For some reason it seems especially important to this team. Maybe it’s the nature of the lineup in that it doesn’t have that Big Bopper in the middle. But, in year #2 Span has sure turned into the leadoff man Rizzo envisioned when he traded for him.

    Another Rizzo win. They are sure starting to stack up.

    • npb99 - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:19 PM

      Amazing how many good players he’s picked up in the last year or two without giving up much in return.

  4. deftndumb - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    One wonders what has become of WODL.

    • sjm308 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      so many of the LOD have had to retire – its a pity

      • deftndumb - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        And those that are left are coming to seem almost…cute.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:53 PM

      WODL? He suffered from attention span disorder.

      • thelatencn - Aug 22, 2014 at 7:39 AM

        Attention Span? Is that another proposal for a nickname for Denard?

  5. veejh - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    Span’s been on an absolute tear since Bryce took a shot at him. Bryce needs to take a shot at Blevins.

    • atlerner - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:11 AM

      Jerry has been MUCH better of late. MW is using him situationally now, I think. Left/Left matchups.

  6. scnatsfan - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    I wonder if Bryce still thinks we bench Span and play Espi.

    Amazed both he and Revere were sent packing by the Twins and both are having great years.

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Great drama. Not necessarily great baseball (0 for RISP), but great drama. Best start of the season for Gonzalez that I can remember. Hope he can remember what he was doing at least seven more times this season. This is one where the phrase, “He gave us a chance to win” has real meaning.

    All of the drama in this streak is basically attributable to wobbly offense, lots of hits but not many runners chased home. If they hit a hot streak with the bats they can extend this streak for another 4-5 games or, heaven forbid, start a new one.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      How quickly we forget about Gio – in late June/early July he put together 3 consecutive shutout starts, 21IP, 19k’s, only 12 hits. One on the road against a Brewers team that is one of the top offenses in the league

      • adcwonk - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:08 PM

        Thanks for bringing that up. You’re absolutely right. A couple of rough starts, and suddenly the view is like he’s been bad all year. He hasn’t. (BTW, two of his losses this year were 1-0 losses)

      • coop202 - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:22 AM

        Where we’re you the last three weeks when I’ve been saying this? Thanks

      • sjm308 - Aug 22, 2014 at 7:19 AM

        Again, please do not confuse theo with facts.

  8. 6ID20 - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    Center fielder has alter egos. Why am I having uncomfortable flashbacks to Nyjer Morgan / Tony Plush?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      One parallel, maybe, but lots (and lots) of differences — of a positive sort.

    • BurnedOnce - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:44 PM

      Span speaks as someone who knows himself. Overcoming his fears. Tony Plush was a foil to hide a guy who knew nothing about himself or the game. He knew hockey though and played baseball like it.

      • adcwonk - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:09 PM

        Well put!

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:47 PM

      Wait, you’re telling me everybody doesn’t do that?

      I don’t want to have to tell Wille Gandébol he’s imaginary.

    • Section 222 - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:12 PM

      Exactly what I thought. There wasn’t Nyjer and TonyP though, there was just TonyP. Nyjer was too full of himself to admit that he had a shy, passive side and was afraid to talk to girls. So maybe it’s not so bad.

  9. Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
    A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
    Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
    Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

    • naterialguy - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:46 PM

      What other baseball blog do you hear quotes from ts Elliott.

      • janebeard - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:40 AM

        I love it!

    • snerdblurter - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:48 AM

      awesome quote. love it.

  10. janebeard - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    I don’t care of it was ugly or not. When SPAN stole that base, we knew we could win (“we” like “we” had anything to do with it!). It was clutch, even before Anthony hit the ball. I’ll never forget it. WHAT FUN!

  11. scmargenau - Aug 22, 2014 at 2:28 AM

    Ok. Is it just me or is any new still mad at tony T? He could have easily jumped 4ft higher and snatched that ball from Jeffery Mayer. But his lack of hops doomed the O’s which lead to a nats expansion and got us here today. So to recap, thank goodness TT is no MJ. Or MASN would be 100% O’s

    • therealjohnc - Aug 22, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      That play was the best thing that happened to O’s fans since 1983. O’s fans have spent almost 20 years assuring themselves that if not for Jeffrey Maier, if Tony T. had been allowed to catch that ball, they would have been the team that dominated the late 90′s, not the Yankees. This narrative is kinda foolish, when one considers that:

      (a) The narrative assumes that the O’s would automatically have won the game. This ignores the fact that the 1996 Yankees beat the 1996 O’s like a rented mule, going 10-3 against them that year, and in particular smacked around Armando Benitez, the O’s closer; and
      (b) Even you assume the O’s win the game, it’s a longer leap to assume that the O’s win the ALCS. The Jeffrey Maier Game was the first game of a best-of-seven series that the Yankees won 4-1; even if the Yankees had lost that game it’s a heckuva thing to assume that the O’s would have automatically won the series (especially given the Yankees head-to-head record against the O’s, and even in the ALCS the Yankees swept the O’s all three games in Baltimore).

      The mid- to late-90′s Yankees were simply better, in the conversation for the best team of all time, a team mostly made up of homegrown players and castoffs picked up off the dustbin or through canny trades whose solid play was in many ways the antidote to the ‘roided up McGuire/Sosa/Bonds era that they played in. Of course Steinbrenner weighed in and brought the Yankees back in the early aughts to the bloated, overhyped behemoth that most come to expect from the pinstripes. But that simply wasn’t true at the time. Even the O’s and Yankees payrolls were about the same (in 1998 the O’s actually had a larger player payroll than the Yankees). Jeffrey Maier gave a lot of O’s fans a huge helping of wishful thinking to get them through a lot of bad baseball. As I said, it was the best thing to happen to them since 1983.

      • scbilly - Aug 22, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Most O’s fans pretty much stop at believing they would have won that game if the umpires had done their job, which would have given them a better shot at the series. Dominating the ’90′s is a bit of a strawman, make sure not to get it too close to an open flame.

  12. rabbit433 - Aug 22, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    I’m glad we’re winning, but there has been a whole lot of luck thrown in. Hopefully, the hammer won’t fall.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 22, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      If it makes you feel any better, the Nats have been overdue for some good fortune. The team has cut its deficit behind its “Pythagorean” record (the record one would expect a team with their run differential to have) from three games to two. Their record is 73-53, where a team with their ability to score and prevent runs “should” have a record of 75-51. It’s a good team.

      Even I doubt that the Nats are going to run the table through the rest of the season; sooner or later they are likely to lose a game or two. When it does happen, you can expect a lot of “oh, here we go, it’s all over now” comments from posters that have been mostly quiet for the last few weeks. Don’t pay them any more mind than the “we’re on our way!” optimists. None of us know how its going to play out, so just enjoy the ride!

  13. Muddy Ruel - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Span is making a great case for himself for 2015. It’d be hard for the Nats not to pick up his $9M option. And if the Nats don’t pick up the option there’ll be a nice market for him. I wonder what the Nats’ plans were for him before his super streak. They’ve got some good prospects — Souza Jr., Taylor, Perez — needing a chance, and Zimmerman needs a place to play if the Nats re-sign LAR and his shoulder is what it has been. … I guess having many players needing a spot isn’t so bad. Zimm is the healthiest guy and it’s a long season.

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