Span's defense sets tone, center fielder says Nats needs to "settle down"

The way you come out and play defense can set the tone for the game and send your teammates the clear signal that you will do everything in your power to make it a tough afternoon for your opponent.

Center fielder Denard Span set the tone early for the Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division series against the Giants by making some big catches in the first inning behind starter Stephen Strasburg.

span-swinging-gray-sidebar.jpgSpan tracked down long drives by the first two Giants hitters, Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik, and recorded the outs. He even got a high glove tap from right fielder Jayson Werth after one very good catch. Werth ended the inning by catching a fly ball off the bat of Buster Posey.

Span also caught a hot shot line off the bat of Pablo Sandoval to begin the second.

The rest of the defense added some great plays by Anthony Rendon. He started a critical 5-4-3 double play that ended the third. He also nabbed Brandon Crawford at second on a fielder's choice in the fourth.

Wilson Ramos had an unfortunate passed ball in the third inning, but the Nationals did not have another fielding error and their pitching managed to force the Giants into 10 men left on base.

The problem was the offense. The Nats got homers from Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera, but had only four other hits and were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Span said that was a critical reason for the 3-2 loss.

"Real disappointing," Span said. "We had opportunities, we had guys in scoring position. We just didn't come through. That was the difference in the game right there. When they had guys in scoring position, they came through."

Is there a quick fix after the Nats' Game 1 loss?

"I don't know, man, to be honest with you," Span said. "I think we have to settle down and regroup. (With) guys in scoring position, we have to find a way to get some hits, bottom line."

Several Nationals , and especially Span, were not going to fall for the postgame query that the long layoff since their last game Sunday contributed to the Game 1 setback.

"You can't use that as an excuse," Span said. "We still came here every day and practiced. We had a scrimmage game. We're not going to use that as an excuse at all."

Span thought that the moonshot home run by Harper and the copycat launch from Cabrera was Washington's opportunity to jump-start the offense in the seventh.

"That was good. We needed that," Span said. "We hadn't had anything going all game. When Harper hit that homer and Cabrera came right behind him, (it) gave us kind of a boost. Just too bad we weren't able to take advantage of that."

Soan acknowledged the Giants are good, but also that there was no panic in the Nationals clubhouse after the game. They have lost games this season and bounced back. Now that is what they need to do in Game 2 today.

"You got to give them guys credit," Span said. "They made good swings in key situations. That's what good teams do. We got to find a way to do that."

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