The first of Denard Span's two hits last night in Milwaukee gave the Washington Nationals' outfielder a five-game hit streak over which he's 10 for 18 with a double and two home runs. He may have run into the home runs, and is not likely to become a long ball threat, but the hitting is part of a now month-long trend.
Over the last 26 games, Span, 29, has been the player the Nats thought they acquired from Minnesota last winter in return for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Span's 30 for 101 over that stretch, .297/.355/.416, with six doubles, the two home runs, nine walks and 8 Ks and he has a .308 BABIP since July 1st. The resurgence for Span comes after a .235/.279/.337 June in which the left-handed hitting center fielder had a .271 BABIP in what was the worst month of the season offensively for the first-year National.
Davey Johnson talked about Span getting things together at the end of the last homestand, after he moved the "prototypical" leadoff man to the seventh spot as part of his latest attempt to jumpstart his struggling offense.
"I think in the leadoff spot, you kind of want to make the pitcher work a lot, [and] it helps all the hitters behind him," Johnson explained, "But I think your on-base percentage always goes up if you show a pitcher you're going to hammer something when they try to get something down the middle early and get ahead. And he's been more aggressive on balls pretty much down the middle."
"I like his approach," the Nats' skipper continued, "And he's actually making contact out front more than even with it and rolling over it, so that's great." After another good night at the plate last night against the Brewers, Johnson told reporters he thought Span might find himself atop the order again in the second game of three in Milwaukee.
"I'm going to put him probably at the top," Johnson said, "go back to him leading off [and Bryce] Harper hitting second tomorrow."
Harper was 2 for 5 last night. Since the All-Star Break, the 20-year-old slugger is 17 for 50 (.340/.377/.600) with two doubles a triple and three home runs, including last night's, which landed in the second deck in right field in Miller Park. It was another big night for the 2010 no.1 overall pick, who spoke up after the team's second straight loss to the Tigers in Detroit, telling reporters he thought everyone on the team from the manager on down had to become a family again before they could turn things around.
Before last night's game, Harper had t-shirts made for the entire team:
Bryce Harper made up new shirts for the Nats. They read: "To the last minute, to the last second, to the last man, we fight!"— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) August 2, 2013
New t-shirt in the #nats clubhouse courtesy of Bryce Harper. It says "To the last minute, to the last second, to the last man. We fight."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) August 2, 2013
Asked about his young star going out and having a big game to back up the comments and the shirts, the Nationals' manager said, it was just Harper being Harper. "It's just Harp. We expect stuff like that out of Harp. But he had a good game... it was nice to see him get a couple hits. That was good."
"It was just a good game all around," Johnson said after the Nats' 53rd win. "When we get 12 hits we can celebrate."
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