Washington Nationals' Wednesday Night Lineup: Denard Span Back On Top vs Phillies

USA TODAY Sports

Davey Johnson's playing the numbers. Last night he went with Scott Hairston atop the lineup against Philadephia Phillies' lefty Cole Hamels. Tonight the Nats face Cliff Lee, and it's Denard Span leading off in spite of his struggles against left-handers this season...

Scott Hairston was 12 for 30 (.400/.455/1.067) with five doubles and five home runs in 33 plate appearances against Cole Hamels before last night's game with the Philadelphia Phillies, so Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson put the Nats' newest outfielder atop his order for the second game of four in Citizens Bank Park in part, as he explained, to mess with Hamels' head.

Hairston went 2 for 5 in the Nats' 4-2 loss, leaving him with a .193/.247/.494 against left-handers this season and a .269/.318/.499 line against LHP in his career... but... against Cliff Lee, tonight's starter for the Phillies? Hairston's 6 for 28 (.214/.214/.464) with a double and two home runs in 28 plate appearances. Denard Span, who sat last night since he's struggled against lefties this year, with a .154/.222/.176 line vs LHP in 2013, is 7 for 24 (.292/.346/.417) against Lee, with a double, triple and two walks in 26 plate appearances.

Span is back in center and atop the lineup tonight for the third game of four in CBP:

Span's got a .305/.355/.427 line vs RHP so far in his first season with the Nationals, but his line vs left-handers has him at .264/.319/.359 overall on the year. Last season, before this winter's trade brought him to the nation's capital from the Twins, Span had a .301/.374/.365 line against left-handers, making his struggles this summer even more of a mystery. In his six-year career, Span has a .278/.358/.373 line vs lefties...

Explaining the decision to go with Hairston against the Phillies on Tuesday night, Davey Johnson told reporters, including CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman, that he was confident Span would turn things around, but thought it would send a message around the league:

"'I think [Span] will come out of it, but also I think it will send a message around the league that I will use Hairston in his spot,' Johnson said. 'It also causes some problems for the other managers. When they go to their bullpen in a lefty situation, I might use Hairston.'"

Tonight Span gets the nod, and looks to turn things around against a left-hander he's hit well in the past, though Cliff Lee is (1-0) with a 2.25 ERA in two starts vs the Nationals this season, and (6-3) with a 2.48 ERA, 7 HR (0.96 HR/9), 8 BB (1.10 BB/9), 66 Ks (9.09 K/9) and a 1.07 WHIP in nine starts and 65 1/3 IP against the franchise in his career...

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