After two-plus seasons of watching Denard Span track down just about everything hit his way, you half-expected to see the Washington Nationals' center fielder get to Chicago Cubs' second baseman Addison Russell's walk-off double to center in the bottom of the ninth inning of last night's game...
After an error by Ian Desmond on an attempted double play, however, there was a runner on second with one down when Russell stepped in, so the Nats' outfielders were playing shallow in case they had to try to cut the potential winning run down at home.
"With the wind we've got to play no doubles there, with a man on first, but with a man on second, a base hit, if we play too deep then we've got no chance to throw him out anyway," Matt Williams explained, "so he's got to play regular depth."
Span couldn't get back in time to catch Russell's liner, however, though Williams said he wouldn't have been too surprised if he did.
"He amazes us every day with the breaks he gets," Williams told reporters, "but that one, the ball is going away from him, the wind is pushing it that way, a really difficult play for him."
Though Span didn't come up with a game-saving catch, he did manage to connect for yet another home run in the eighth inning of last night's game, momentarily giving the Nationals a 2-1 lead.
Span talked after Monday's game about his "old man strength" helping him power a few out. Williams talked about the 31-year-old, eight-year veteran having power to his pull side and being short to the ball on pitches inside.
In addition to the homer last night, Span connected for a two-out single in the third, moving Tyler Moore to third base on an infield hit that set Ian Desmond up with an RBI opportunity when they were hard to come by against Cubs' starter Kyle Hendricks. The home run came came on a 2-0 pitch from Pedro Strop.
It was Span's fifth HR of the 2015 campaign, matching his 2014 total after just 29 games and 132 plate appearances after he hit his fifth in his 137th game and 629th PA last season.
"I just like the at bats he's taking," Williams said. "The at bat with a man on second, hitting it the other way -- to stay on a pitch, to hit to the situation and get a single is more impressive to me than the ball over the fence. I don't know if he flushed that ball, but on nights like tonight here, you don't necessarily have to, so it got us an opportunity to take the lead, but I'm more impressed with the at bat that he had for the single. Although it didn't get through, that's a nice piece of hitting right there."