Manager Davey Johnson went back to Denard Span as his leadoff hitter on Aug. 6 against the Braves. With Span starting to hit again and get on base, Johnson felt it was the best time to go back to the way the lineup should have been aligned.
Span has led off and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has batted second for three straight games. They will be in the same spots again Saturday against the Phillies.
“Scoring nine runs, man, I am staying right there,” Johnson said.
Johnson admitted that having Bryce Harper and Anthon Rendon in the 1-2 spots to leadoff was a move that was necessitated because of Span’s struggles and it wasn’t what he really wanted to do.
“I hated to lead off Harp,” Johnson said. “But it has been a weird year. Before yesterday’s game, I said I am going to go back to where I know they need to hit and they should hit and they should be successful. So that is how that lineup came up yesterday.”
The new-look lineup also had veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche in the five hole with Johnson moving him to the sixth slot against left-handers, which the Nationals will have faced in the first two games of the series against the Phillies.
“I really like having Roachie fifth, but I think I am going to move him to sixth against left-handers,” Johnson said.
LaRoche has had six hits in his last four games, three of those knocks coming in the fifth or sixth batting spots in the order.
“He swung the bat good the other day,” Johnson said. “He hit a bunch of balls hard. He made that baserunning mistake. I think he was surprised he got on base on the left-hander. He had to apologize to everybody. Roachie came over and apologized to me, he said, ‘I am not used to being out there.’
“But I like to have a set lineup when I have basically the same regulars all the time.”
Johnson has said he always focuses on getting to a lineup he can use every day. With Span back at leadoff and Zimmerman moving up and LaRoche down, he may have finally found something that could click for a while and still be able to take advantage of on-base opportunities early in innings.
It is up to Span. They need him to get on base to set up the lineup for big hitters that follow in Zimmerman, Harper and Werth - a familiar refrain that unfortunately has been a goal the Nationals have been unable to sustain for most of the first 100-plus games of the season.