Denard Span's 29-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-4 performance tonight in a 3-2 win over the Marlins, but while Span was a little disappointed with the end result, he still was able to reflect on the last month with a smile on his face.
When Span was done with an on-field MASN interview immediately after the game, he walked down the dugout tunnel and saw the entire Nationals team waiting for him at the front of the clubhouse. All his teammates and coaches were there applauding, ready to give him hugs for what's been a tremendous month.
"That made me feel good, because all year I've been struggling, I've been battling," Span said. "And to see my teammates just give me some gratitude ... I've been trying to earn their respect all year, and it just felt good.
"(The streak) was a lot of fun. It gave me something to look forward to - not that I need anything more to look forward to, but it gave me a little added motivation to come to the field to try to extend it."
When did he start realizing that he had something special going?
"I think it was once I got to about 15 games," Span said. "Prior to that, I had a couple pinch-hits where I came in late in the game when I didn't start, and I kept it going, but once I got to about 15, 16 then I started realizing, you know, I'm doing something that a lot of players don't get the chance to do."
Span entered a seventh-inning plate appearance against A.J. Ramos having gone 0-for-3 on the night, knowing that he likely wouldn't get another at-bat the rest of the night. He struck out on a 2-2 curveball, and slowly turned back to the dugout as fans started to applaud. Span tipped his helmet to the crowd as he made his way down the dugout steps.
"I'll be honest, I was definitely upset," he said. "It was a few things; I haven't not gotten a hit in 29 days, so that felt weird, walking back to the dugout without getting a hit. I felt sad, like I let myself down, let the fans down, they've been rooting for me. But once I hear the round of applause, it did make me feel a bit better.
"(The fan reaction) felt good. I've gotten a lot of scrutiny this year, with how I started, and for me to do what I've done, and give the fans an opportunity to see what I bring to the table, it's just been good for them to see that I am a good player, and Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals brought me here for a reason. It's just an unbelievable feeling, I'll be honest."
Span raised his batting average 23 points during this stretch, no easy task this late in the season when players have accumulated hundreds of at-bats. He's now batting a solid .281 on the season.
"You know, a lot of the games, I was going 3-for-4, and only seeing my average go up three points," Span said. "But you know what, I'm still thankful that I was able to do something like this, and I guess kinda, you could say jump-start my season, even all the way in August, September.
He got a little more than half-way to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, and in the process was left in awe of exactly what DiMaggio was able to accomplish.
"Yeah, I mean, it's unbelievable," Span said. "I got to 28, and I thought I was doing something. Everybody on Twitter, everybody broke me down, saying, 'You're halfway to DiMaggio,' and I'm like, 'Oh my god, I don't know if I can keep this going a whole 'nother month.' That's two straight months of getting a base hit, and that's unreal."
While Span is upset this run is over, part of him feels he can breathe a little easier now that he doesn't have to deal with the stress that comes with a lengthy hitting streak.
"I wanted to keep it going, but yeah, I'm not sure I'll sleep tonight, but it's ... like I said, it's a sigh of relief, because I can turn the page, try and finish the season strong, and hopefully we can get into the postseason," Span said.
"Once the game was over, I was able to take a deep breath and say, 'You know what, now I can move on.' We got a win, and now, let's see if we can finish these last few games strong."