Nationals center fielder Denard Span had himself a series. He finished the three games with nine hits against the Reds, including a 5-for-5 performance Tuesday and a leadoff solo shot Wednesday. It was his first homer of the season.
The home run off of Reds starter Alfredo Simon gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, they could not muster much else offensively, leaving two men on only one time. That chance arrived in the second inning, when Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore led off with back-to-back singles. After one out, Nate McLouth walked the bases loaded. But before Span could get up again, Tanner Roark grounded into an inning ending double play.
The Nationals lost to the Reds 2-1, totaling only six hits.
“Tanner swings it pretty good, so you kinda don’t want him to just give up an at-bat because I’ve seen him plenty of times go up there and, you know, hit a ball hard through a hole,” Span said. “It’s kinda a Catch-22 up there.”
It is too bad that they could not get to Span’s at-bat in the second, especially after he ignited the offense with a homer to start the game.
“Any time you lead off the game with a home run, you usually think it’s probably going to be a good day for the offense, but you gotta give credit to Simon,” Span said. “... He shut the door down, made good pitches. He’s a guy that use to be a closer, and now he’s in the starting rotation, so he’s tough.”
It took Span a while last season to hit his first home run, which came July 27, 2013 against the Mets. So, knocking one out of the park in May felt pretty good. His last home run was September 9.
“Definitely did not think that I was going to go deep today,” Span said. “... Very happy. It’s a good feeling when you look up at the scoreboard, and you don’t have that goose egg anymore. Last year, it took me about 300-some at-bats or whatever to get a home run. This year, it definitely feels a lot better to get it out of the way.”
But Span was quick to acknowledge that this team is fighting to win games without three of its best offensive weapons. Bryce Harper (thumb) and Ryan Zimmerman (thumb) are still a ways away from returning. Adam LaRoche (quad) could be back Sunday.
“Right now, we’re banged up, man,” Span said. “... It’s tough because I feel like we’re still playing good baseball even with our circumstances right now. The two games we lost this series were tough losses. We were in both those games. We had opportunities to win both of those games. So this series was just a tough series, and just gotta move on to the next one and get ready for Pittsburgh.
“Our lineup, with those two guys (Harper and LaRoche) in the lineup definitely changes the dynamics of our lineup against the right-handed pitcher. You lose that power, you lose that threat of having those big hitters come up in big situations.”
Span was plenty impressed with Roark and how he kept the team in the game, even after a 61-minute rain delay.
“(Roark) goes out there and gives it his all,” Span said. “He gives us the opportunity or chance to win every time he goes out there. You gotta give him a lot of credit.
“All of our pitchers this year have been pitching good. You gotta give them credit, they’ve been giving us opportunities to win every time they take the ball. You can’t put any blame on them.”
Span was involved in a rare overturned call in the eighth inning. Leading off, his line shot to center field appeared at first glance to be caught by Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Span was called out on the field.
Nationals manager Matt Williams came out to request a video replay review. The call was overturned when it was determined Hamilton trapped the ball.
“I could tell he trapped it, and right away, he came out, and I think Randy (Knorr) got the call from inside,” Span said. “I don’t wanna say it was an easy one to see, but yeah, I definitely saw it.
“Normally, when it’s a close play, Matt’s gonna come out there and wait for the phone call from inside and see if he should challenge it or not.”