Denard Span was originally penciled in atop the Washington Nationals' lineup as usual, but before this afternoon's series finale in St. Louis, the Nats' 30-year-old center fielder and leadoff man was scratched with what the Nationals announced via Twitter was back stiffness:
Denard Span was scratched from today's #Nats lineup with a stiff back. He's available to pinch hit.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 15, 2014
Span was the only left-handed bat in the lineup initially as the Nationals were set to face off against 27-year-old left-hander Jaime Garcia, who enters this afternoon's outing with a .185/.211/.370 line against right-handed hitters so far in 2014. In his career, the veteran of six MLB seasons has held righties to a combined .260/.313/.380 line.
Span, who has a .278/.354/.370 line against fellow lefties in his career, struggled to hit left-handers last season in his first year in the National League following the trade that brought him to the nation's capital from Minnesota. In 172 plate appearances vs LHP in 2013, the left-handed hitting outfielder put up a .223/.278/.261 line. So far this season, Span's put up a .242/.294/.323 line vs lefties.
The Nats' leadoff man started slowly in his second season in Washington with a .233/.295/.314 line in March/April, but bounced back at the plate with a .296/.331/.417 May that left him with a .269/.315/373 line on the year.
His 0 for 4 night in Busch Stadium on Saturday left him 0 for 19 over his last 22 plate appearances however, with a .236/.271/.400 line thus far in June.
With Span out of the lineup this afternoon, Nationals' skipper Matt Williams put Anthony Rendon in the top spot, giving the third baseman who walked more than he K'd in college the leadoff spot for the eighth time in his first two major league seasons. Nate McLouth got the start in center.
• Here's the updated Nationals' lineup after Span's late scratch:
Lineup change for the #Nats: Rendon 3B, McLouth CF, Werth RF, Zimmerman 1B, Hairston LF, Desmond SS, Espinosa 2B, Leon C, Fister RHP— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 15, 2014