PHILADELPHIA - When Denard Span’s back spasms forced Nationals manager Matt Williams to re-release his revised lineup card about an hour before first pitch last night, the result resembled a spring training batting order. Then Yunel Escobar left the game and by the time the bottom of the first inning started, the lineup had progressed to a mix of names from a March split squad scrimmage.
“Weird day. Weird day,” Williams reflected after. “Denard’s in there and comes in for our advanced meeting and his back locked up on him again. And then Yunel gets hit by a pitch. It’s opportunity. It’s need. And guys came through.”
“They’ve stepped up tremendously and not just (last night), but all season long,” said Span of the bench. “They’ve done a good job. We’re definitely having the injury bug around here. It’s just a testament to how good of players those guys really are. If they were on a lot of other teams, they probably would get a lot more playing time.”
With full confidence, Williams shifted Michael A. Taylor over to center field and into the leadoff spot where he smoked a double to start the game and then scored the Nationals’ first run moments later.
Taylor went 2-for-5 with two runs scored while also using his speed to run down a couple hard hit balls off Nats ace Max Scherzer.
“It takes everybody,” Scherzer said while complimenting the reserves. “It takes guys like Clint Robinson to come in and show that he can play and he’s banging at this level. Just doing great things for us. It just takes everybody to step up and do something to help the ballclub. Even guys at the beginning of the season that you may not have penciled in. They have the opportunity now to do something for the ballclub and help the team out, and that’s what you love to see and succeeding in their role.”
Scherzer has become an offensive juggernaut, at least for a pitcher. He ripped a leadoff line drive single to start the fifth to extend his hitting streak to six games and crossed the plate shortly after to help the depleted Nats.
“That always puts a smile on your face,” Scherzer said laughing. “Anytime you can do something at the plate that can always spring big innings from the pitchers spot. And fortunately I was able to get a hit and it just led to another inning that we were able to score a run.”
Taylor watched his former Fort Lauderdale, Fla. high school teammate Matt den Dekker belt his first home run with the Nats on a two-run shot in the sixth inning.
“It’s exciting,” Taylor said. “I mean, he crushed that ball. I was very happy for him.”
den Dekker, who moved into the lineup when Span was scratched, was making his first start with the Nationals, after being acquired from the Mets in a late March trade.
“You just gotta be ready,” said den Dekker. “It’s part of the game. Guys get hurt. Guys get banged up and need a day here and there, and it’s our job to be ready. We got a really good team here, so when you get your chances, you go in there and try to help the team win.”
X-rays were negative on Escobar’s left hand after getting hit by a fastball from Phillies starter Aaron Harang in his first at-bat. When he headed to the clubhouse, Williams’ bench was whittled down to reserve catcher Jose Lobaton and newly recalled infielder Emmanuel Burriss with Harper and Span available in emergency situations.
In fact, when Scherzer finally left the game after spinning another eight-inning gem, Williams turned to fellow starter Doug Fister to pinch-hit for him.
“We don’t want to get in a situation where we don’t have anybody,” said Williams. “It’s no fun to play like that, but it certainly helps when Max is on the mound.”
It’s possible the Nats will have to make another move today if Harper, Span and Escobar are unable to play in this afternoon’s game.