After last night’s win, the Nationals’ 10th straight, Denard Span was asked how it felt to notch his 28th stolen base on the season, given how close he is to reaching his personal goal of 30 bags in a single year.
“Twenty-seven,” Span responded, cracking a smile. “Twenty-seven. I know. I know these things.”
He’s on top of it, all right.
Span’s 27th stolen base of the season was a big one. And according to him, it might’ve just been the most meaningful bag of his career.
With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the ninth, Span singled to center. He got the word from first base coach Tony Tarasco that Diamondbacks reliever Evan Marshall delivered the ball to the plate in 1.3 seconds, which isn’t too slow, but allows a basestealer a chance, should he get a good jump.
Span knew the Nats needed him in scoring position, and so he got to work.
“(Tarasco) just told me, he left it in my hands, he told me ‘If you think you can get it, go get it,’ ” Span said. “I walked off a little bit in between, as the guy was warming up, and I kind of just had to put on my alter ego and talk myself into it and get in that zone. And I was just ready and I was able to get a good jump.”
There is no tougher situation for a basestealer than needing to swipe a bag when everyone in the stadium knows you’re going to run. The Diamondbacks were aware Span wanted to get into scoring position to give Anthony Rendon a chance to drive in the game-winning run, and they would do all they could to keep him stationed at first base.
But Span swiped the bag anyway, taking off on a slider from Marshall and beating the throw into second. And as we all know, Span ended up scoring that game-winning run from second when Rendon’s hopper to third resulted in a Jordan Pacheco throwing error out of play.
“That’s what guys like me - speed guys - we dream of, getting stolen bases like that in the ninth inning and helping your team win and getting in scoring position like that,” Span said. “That’s way more important than stealing two or three bags in first five innings. That was probably my first meaningful bag in my career right there, where I actually stole and put us in a position to win like that.”
Whether they admit it or not, most players set individual goals for themselves in spring training. Some want to bash 30 home runs. Some want to hit .280. Some want to pitch 200 innings.
For Span, the 30-stolen base mark was something he had in mind this spring. He had never stolen more than 26 bases in a season prior to this year, and last night’s topped that mark, setting a career-high. When he hit 25 stolen bases a handful of days ago, I asked him what getting to the 30-bag mark would mean to him.
“It would mean everything,” Span said. “Just thinking about it gets me excited.”
Yesterday, he explained.
“I’ve come a long way in my basestealing,” Span said. “I give all the credit to this organization for just believing in me. Whenever I make a mistake, they’re always telling me ‘Just keep going. Keep being aggressive.’ And this is my first time saying this, but in 10 years I never had that in Minnesota.
“So it’s just a good feeling, man, just to know that they believe in me. And Tony, he’s stayed in my ear, stayed in my back pocket and just gave me every opportunity to be successful in stealing bases.”