It’s impossible to see what the Nationals have done offensively the last two days and not wonder whether this is it.
Has the offense finally woken up for good? Is this the stretch where things turn around and the Nats start playing to their ability, as Davey Johnson likes to put it? This just has to be where the offense kicks things into high gear, right?
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jayson Werth said. “We’ll see. One minute, we can’t score a run. The next minute, we’re scoring too many runs. It was a good win (Monday night), a good way to start out the series. We’ll come back out and play tomorrow.”
There’s no way to know whether this is truly the start of an important stretch or just another brief taste of what could be. We’ll find out in the coming days and weeks whether the Nats have really turned a corner with Bryce Harper back in the lineup, Werth hitting second and Anthony Rendon now slotted toward the bottom of the order.
But after spending most of the season near the bottom of the league in key offensive categories, the Nats clearly have hit a hot streak. Over these last two games, they’ve hit .338/.407/.688 as a team (that’s a 1.095 OPS!) with 17 extra-base hits and eight walks.
You hear all the time that hitters can feed off of each other, that if one guy gets it going, it can spark the guys around him. Is that really true, though? Can an offense come to life just based on a couple hitters getting things rolling for everyone?
Denard Span seems to think so.
“Hitting definitely is contagious,” Span said. “I think it’s an epidemic. It kind of just spreads and hopefully we can keep it going. It’s a lot more fun when we’re batting around and having good at-bats and getting the starting pitcher out of the game like (Monday night).”
Take Span, for example. As the Nats leadoff hitter, Span was expected to be a table-setter, an offensive sparkplug this season. That hasn’t really happened, as Span has battled a foot injury for much of the last couple of months and just had trouble getting in any kind of groove offensively.
But lately, Span has quietly started to settle in a bit. He’s reached base at least once in 11 of his last 12 games, and is hitting .326/.380/.478 in that span (no pun intended). He has six extra-base hits in those 12 games and has walked four times.
Last night, Span went 1-for-3 with a single and two walks - a line that might not wow the casual fan. But the Nats will gladly take that type of night from Span whenever they can get it.
“Tonight was vintage me,” Span said last night. “Seeing pitches. 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 tonight was a good night.”
If Span can get going and Werth can settle in as a No. 2 hitter who reaches base at a nice clip and can drive in some runs, the Nats might be in good shape. Harper being back doesn’t just give the Nats a very potent No. 3 hitter, it also bumps everyone else down a spot, giving the lineup significantly more depth than it’s had for the last two months.
“With everybody healthy, look at our lineup,” Werth said. “It’s balanced, it’s right-left-right all the way down. You put Rendon down in the seventh hole and it’s a tough, balanced lineup, I mean it really is.
“We’ll see, but I like our lineup like that.”