When Denard Span walked from the on-deck circle to the plate leading off the seventh inning, a large portion of the 30,636 at Nationals Park tonight started cheering, trying to spur Span on as he attempted to extend his hitting streak in the late innings.
The fans got even louder after Span laced a single to right-center, pushing that hitting streak to 29 games.
Span had been 0-for-3 tonight entering that at-bat, and I’m sure he was aware as he made his way into the batter’s box that it might’ve been his last opportunity to keep the streak going.
He quickly got ahead in the count 3-1, then drove a Luis Ayala fastball just over the glove of the leaping Dan Uggla at second.
The fans exploded, as did Span’s teammates. The crowd rose to its collective feet to salute Span, and he pounded his fists together and pointed to the sky after rounding first base.
Span is now one game shy of tying Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game streak, which is the longest mark in team history.
The Nationals, meanwhile, trail 4-2 going to the eighth after Atlanta rattled off four straight runs.
They got three in the sixth on Uggla’s solo homer and Justin Upton’s two-out, two-run shot, and then tacked on one more off Craig Stammen in the seventh, when Brian McCann doubled in Evan Gattis, who had singled leading off the inning.
The Nats have gone 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position tonight and have stranded nine runners, so it’s not like they haven’t had their chances. But outside of Jayson Werth’s run-scoring walk and Bryce Harper’s sac fly, they haven’t been able to deliver in key spots.
Update: This one will hurt the Nats’ postseason chances a good bit.
The Nats fell to the Braves 5-2 tonight, failing to complete the three-game sweep of their division rivals and dropping back to a full five games behind the Reds in the NL wild card chase, for the time being.
Cincinnati is currently tied with the Astros 4-4 in the sixth, so the Nats’ deficit could be 5 1/2 games after tonight.
Ross Ohlendorf gets the loss, his first of the season. He’s now 4-1 on the year, and the Nats lose for the first time in the veteran righty’s seven starts.
The Nats led 2-0 after five, but they didn’t have a hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-5 in such situations tonight.