Denard Span has been the Nationals’ most consistent hitter the past month.
Over the 30 games leading up to Tuesday night’s series opener against the Mets, Span posted a batting average of .379, and he reached base in each of those games.
But it’s not just his hot hitting streak that’s helped spark Washington’s offense. He’s balanced his patience at the plate with superb base running.
“He’s amazing. Denard does what he does,” infielder Anthony Rendon said. “He’s an ideal leadoff guy.” Here’s how Span has gotten it done:
As a leadoff man, Span isn’t looking to hit for power. He’s content hitting singles, so that his teammates in the middle of the lineup can drive him in. As a result, he’s struck out only 46 times before Tuesday, and just 15 times during his 30-game on-base streak. He said he’s been able to track the ball better from opposing pitchers lately, which helped him record 44 hits and five doubles during this stretch. “I try to barrel the ball and hope that I can get it away from somebody,” Span said.
Span had 39 walks entering Tuesday’s game — tied for second-most among NL center fielders. This puts him on pace to walk 64 times in 2014 — 17 more than his total last season. He’s shown an ability to draw walks even when he’s gotten behind early in the count. Fifteen of Span’s walks this season came after he fell behind 0-1. “I just come here every day and study the pitchers we’re facing that day and try to get as prepared as I can,” he said.
Prior to Tuesday, the 30-year-old had stolen 23 bases this season, putting him on pace for a career-best 34. Span has been more aggressive lately. He took five bases in the six games leading up to Tuesday. “It sets the table for the guys in the middle,” manager Matt Williams said. “Certainly it helps if he has the ability to steal second base to get in scoring position with nobody out in the top of the first. It just puts pressure on the other club.”
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