Denard Span’s walk-up music varies depending on the inning. But he always steps into the batter’s box in the first inning with The Diplomats anthem, “I’m Ready.” Span said the song’s repetitive chorus puts him in the right mindset for his role as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter and the catalyst of Washington’s offense.
The center fielder’s ability to get on base can trigger a big rally or put the team in position for an early lead. And after the Nationals’ offense sputtered during Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, it was imperative for him to get things going the next night.
Span singled to open the bottom of the first Saturday, sparking the Nationals’ decisive five-run inning in an 8-3 win over the Brewers.
Span has been dynamic lately, going 5 for 9 in the first two games since the all-star break and reaching base safely in 15 straight games.
He’s gone 18 for 53 (.340) in the month of July as the Nationals have stayed at or near the top of the National League East.
“I really can’t put my finger on it honestly,” Span said of his torrid hitting. “It’s a crazy game. Even before these last couple of games I felt like I had been hitting the ball good and having good at-bats. I’m just finding holes I guess.”
In his first at-bat Saturday, Span aggressively fouled off four pitches from Brewers starter Matt Garza, extending the battle.
Eventually, with the count stuck at 1-2, he connected on a four-seam fastball. The 94-mph pitch was high and in on his hands, but Span managed to get around on it for a single to right field.
By the end of the inning, a frustrated Garza was out of the game and the Nationals had a five-run lead.
“I’ve faced Garza. I actually played with him as well in our younger days,” Span said. “I know he’s an aggressive type of pitcher. He’s going to come after you. I just was ready. He threw me some really good pitches, and I was able to stay alive and put a ball in play and find a hole.”
Span’s 35 extra-base hits are the most in the major leagues among leadoff hitters, and his 29 doubles are tied for fifth among all hitters.
On Saturday, he smacked a double to deep right-center field in the eighth inning.
“He’s been playing really well all year long,” Manager Matt Williams said. “He plays every day. He’s energetic, he’s a fantastic teammate and he sets our offense into motion oftentimes in that first inning. In the last month or so, I think he’s actually seeing more pitches per at-bat. He’s doing things really well for us.”