The strategy behind the Nationals’ opening day lineup

NEW YORK - Nationals manager Matt Williams put out a somewhat surprising opening day lineup, placing Wilson Ramos in the cleanup spot with Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth at the top of the order, and Bryce Harper hitting behind Ramos in the five-hole.

Williams believes Zimmerman can showcase his immense talent from the second spot in the order.

“We look at our lineup and we say, ‘How do we get to the best lineup?’ ” Williams said. “Zim has the ability to do a lot of things on the baseball field. And to put him in front of those three guys seems to be a case where he will have those opportunities. His success last year dictates a lot of that, and the fact that he has done it. It is not something that he is new to. He knows that position well.”

Does this mean that Ramos will be the cleanup hitter for the entire season?

“We would like to have everybody in a spot where they are comfortable and leave them there,” Williams said. “The reality is that is not going to happen. So, for the most part, that is what we want to do. We will see how it goes. We certainly have spots to flip five and seven, not necessarily with those guys. Depending on who is pitching, we can flip those spots. It is going to change from day to day depending on who is playing. We would like to leave them in one spot if we could.”

Harper is followed by Ian Desmond with Adam LaRoche in the seventh spot. Williams said he could flip-flop Harper and LaRoche when matchups dictate. But he likes Harper in the five-hole to take advantage of the young outfielder’s power, speed and on-base abilities.

“Just the ability to open his game if we want to open his game up a little bit,” Williams said. “It is interesting to see what Bryce can do. He has the ability to beat the other team in a lot of different ways. He has hit there a lot this spring. He has got a lot of opportunities to drive runs in and we want to continue to do that. We want him in situations where he can win games for us. That is a good position for him. And that will change, too, from time to time.

“Over the last week of spring training, we saw a lot of opportunity for him there. So we hope to give him more. Let him get out there and feel the game, play the game, have those opportunities are important.”

Anthony Rendon will bat eighth. Williams likes Rendon’s plate discipline there but also said that Danny Espinosa will get a lot of playing time, as well.

“Regularly, I want to see Danny in there. We are going to try to pick good matchups for Danny certainly, and for Anthony, too. They both are going to get ample opportunity to play. There will be times where Anthony also plays third, which would allow Danny to play second on those particular days as well. I think he is going to get plenty of at-bats.”

“Anthony has got good knowledge of the strike zone. I don’t have fear of him or anxiety about him hitting eighth. Again that can change depending on who we are facing. He has a good knowledge of the zone, he doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches and he is patient.

“The unfortunate part about our lineup is we have a lot guys that are middle-of-the-lineup guys. And so you have to have construct that lineup and you have to have somebody that hits eighth, and today Anthony fits that bill because he is patient.”

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