Bryce Harper’s resounding solo home run in the first inning of the Nationals’ 10-5 win over Milwaukee signaled a newfound energy for the Nationals’ offense Monday night, and marked a return to normalcy for the 20-year-old phenom. Denard Span, in a much quieter fashion, felt something similar.
Among the most promising news for the Nationals on Monday, other than Harper looking healthy and back in form, were signs of progress by Span; albeit in a small sample size. He finished 1 for 3 with a double, two walks and three runs, the second straight encouraging performance. On Sunday, Span went 3 for 5 with a run scored in a 13-2 win at the New York Mets. He saw 26 pitches over five plate appearances on Monday, a far higher rate than his 3.91 average entering the game.
“(Monday) was vintage me, seeing pitches,” Span said. “I didn’t get fooled too much. Whenever you see me seeing a lot of pitches like that, drawing walks, that’s what I do. Hopefully that lets me know I’m getting closer to where I need to be. We’ve still got a lot of baseball left, and like I’ve been telling everyone from day one, every day I come here I’m trying to get better and better and hopefully I’m turning the corner. Still not where I want to be, but the last two days and (Monday) was a good night.”
Sunday was the first game Span had three hits since June 8, the day which began a 19-game stretch in which Span slumped and hit just .227 with a .284 on-base percentage. He also walked just five times during that three-week stretch. On Monday, Span walked twice Monday. His three runs were the most he’s scored in a game all year. It was also his first multi-run game since May 31.
Span’s solid performance against the Brewers was foretold in his impressive power display during batting practice before the game. Following a walk in the third, Span scored on a Jayson Werth two-run double, and Span added his own double off the right field wall in the bottom of the fourth to help push the lead to 8-0.
Span’s batting average (.263) and on-base percentage (.318) are below average for a leadoff hitter halfway through the season, but a recent improvement at the plate could prove more fruitful for the Nationals. Werth’s .444 slugging percentage is his highest in three years and Harper, a proven power bat, will hit two spots behind him in the order.
“(Monday) definitely was fun,” Span said. “Having obviously Bryce back and getting (Werth) in the two hole and just having everybody but Ramos. But it seemed like our lineup is a lot deeper with Bryce back and it makes it tougher for the opposing pitchers.”
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FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Erie 1, Harrisburg 0: Taylor Hill made his second start for Harrisburg since his promotion and allowed only one run on six hits over seven innings. Aaron Barrett tossed a scoreless eighth and lowered his ERA to 1.95. Jason Martinson, Destin Hood and Jose Lozado accounted for the only Harrisburg hits.
Winston-Salem 5, Potomac 3: Blake Schwartz allowed only two runs, one earned, on four hits over six innings. Kevin Keyes hit his seventh home run of the season and finished 2 for 4. Caleb Ramsey went 2 for 5 and Cole Leonida drove in a run.
Hagerstown 6, West Virginia 2: Nick Lee tossed seven scoreless innings. Shawn Pleffner went 4 for 5 with two doubles. Stephen Perez went 3 for 4 with two RBI.