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Span and Rendon set the tone again

Jun 24, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

May 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates with center fielder Denard Span (2) after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For much of the 2014 season, while injuries took their toll on the rest of the Nationals lineup, it was the combination of Denard Span and Anthony Rendon that led the way. Both players earned NL MVP votes as arguably the best one-two punch at the top of the order in baseball. Span led the league in hits, Rendon led the league in runs.

But in 2015, that has so far not been the case. Span has been in the lineup after missing the first two weeks of the season and has mostly been himself. He is hitting over .300, leading the team in stolen bases and setting the table as an elite leadoff hitter.

Rendon, on the other hand, has not been the guy we saw in 2014. He missed the first third of the season and before Tuesday was hitting just .230/.333/.311, far below his .287/.351/.473 Silver Slugger slash of last year.

Tuesday, though, may have given the Nationals their first reminder this season of what they are capable of as a duo. Span went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run. Rendon had easily his best game of 2015 and went 4-for-4 with an RBI.

After the Nats’ 3-1 win over the Braves, some couldn’t help but make the year-to-year comparison, even Span himself.

“I think it just sets the tone,” he said. “It sets the whole offense in motion, especially if I get on base and he comes behind me. He usually gives me a pitch or two to try and get on second base. And if not, if I don’t steal, he’s very capable of hitting a homer or hitting a double. It’s just something that sets the tone for the whole team and the whole game when we do our jobs.”

“They both have a good sense of the strike zone when they’re standing at the plate, so they walk a lot which sets up our 3-4-5 guys,” manager Matt Williams said. “That was the measure of our success offensively last year. We hope that that’s going to continue to be the measure of our success. Those two guys at the top of the lineup are important for us.”

Span and Rendon made an impact immediately on Tuesday night against Braves starter Alex Wood. Span led off the first inning with a double off the wall in center field over the head of Cameron Maybin. Rendon then poked a single down the right-field line to score Span and put the Nats up a run before Atlanta even recorded their first out.

That small detail, taking a pitch outside and sending it the other way, was particularly impressive according to Williams.

“Te first one down the line, just trying to get Denard over. He hit a ball down the line to drive in a run,” Williams explained. “To move a baseball, like Anthony did tonight. Denard leads off with a double and he just moves the baseball the other way. It just sets up innings for us.”

Those are the types of plays that the Nationals have come to expect from Rendon. His average rose to .277 on Tuesday, much closer to his career mark, but it’s the finer things that stand out to his coaches and teammates.

“He’s looking Tony-esque,” Tanner Roark said. “That basehit, his first basehit down the line, you could just tell he is taking balls where he’s being pitched at. He looked good.”

“It’s getting there,” Williams said. “For Anthony, if he’s hitting the ball on a line the other way, then you know his swing is right. In recent days he’s hit some groundballs to short. If he’s doing that, then you know he’s not quite right on his timing.”

Span was already in regular form, but now that Rendon is coming around the potential of the Nationals’ lineup was on full display Tuesday night. If they are setting the table, guys like Bryce Harper – who went 0-for-4 in the game – don’t have to carry the load like they have for much of this season.

“It’s not easy [to pitch against]. Denard is playing really well and Tony’s back in the lineup feeling good and feeling healthy,” Roark said. “One through nine, one through eight, whatever. We’ve got a great lineup and we’re all confident. It’s pretty tough to face us.”

  1. coolhandbane - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    You could tell from the game last night this is happening. It’s nice to see span & Rendon click once more.

    Sorry to be a bit annoying but (from previous thread), can I bring chips & such in a clear ziploc bag into nats park? I know some have said they bring in their own popcorn & peanuts to the game. Those who do bring their own food, what do you bring your food in when you go to nays park

    • thenattyprofessor - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:42 AM

      Last night I took pretzels and peanuts in clear ziplock bags and had no problem getting in. Same thing for unopened bottles of water.

      Unopened Gatorade, however, is different. Don’t know why but they made me toss it out.

      • NatsLady - Jun 24, 2015 at 6:26 PM

        Took grapes and an egg salad sandwich. No problem.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:44 AM

      Not annoying, imo. Carrying forward from that thread:

      natsfan1a – Jun 24, 2015 at 11:41 AM

      As far as the overall container, my husband has a small backpack and I have a smallish canvas “game” bag. We carry the food and water in those, as well as binos, ponchos, etc.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:47 AM

        Oh, and regarding part 1 of your query. I would think that chips and such should be fine as well. We’ve brought in peanuts, trail mix (each in individual sandwich bags), granola bars, and the occasional homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Also sealed water bottles, as others have noted.

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 24, 2015 at 1:22 PM

      I bring in nuts in a ziplock bag all the time, no problem. A couple of years ago when I was on an economy kick I used to bring in a sandwich, pickle, etc, in one of those little red lunchbags they gave away once at a game. Only got questioned about it once, whereupon I just went to a different gate and got in with no problem.

      The gate attendants are inconsistent sometimes about applying the rules. Beverages seem to be the real sticking point. Unopened plastic bottles of water only. I guess that’s to prevent someone from taking a water bottle and filling it with vodka, gin or grain alcohol. I suppose that makes sense.

      But walking to the no-no game the other day, I passed by a not unattractive lady who had just come out of the Starbucks slurping a venti something-or-other. When I got into the ballpark and up to the gallery level concourse I saw the same lady there slurping the same drink. I guess the gate attendants can be “bribed”, if you get my drift.

      • tcostant - Jun 24, 2015 at 3:27 PM

        Actually juice boxes are allowed too. Almost any food, unopened water and juce boxes.

    • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2015 at 1:30 PM

      Yes, you can bring chips in a clear ziplock bag. You can also bring a single serving of chips in its original packaging as well. The policy does not require clear bags like an airport. You can buy a hot dog and chips on Half Street outside the park and bring them in. I’ve done it dozens of times. I’ve never heard them say, “oh, that bag of peanuts is not a single serving of peanuts.” They are too busy to have those kinds of arguments.

      The one thing the guards are sure to stop you for are beverages other than unopened bottles of water.

      Since you’re worried about it, strictly comply with the policy and bring a copy with you. Waving it at an overly zealous guard should do the trick.

      Scroll down to “prohibited items”.

  2. thenattyprofessor - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    Denard did hit the ball well last night. His double was pretty close to clearing the wall. But I am a little concerned about his running. He seems to be holding back a bit, to me. I suspect he is still not entirely healthy and simply exercising prudence so he can stay in the lineup.

    Rendon’s hit in the first was beautiful, but I was surprised he didn’t take second, especially when the ball kicked away from Markakis.

    Both things together make me wonder if it will take a while for all Denard, Rendon and everyone else who has spent significant time on the DL or nursing injuries to get fully up to speed again.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:55 AM

      We know Rendon’s quad is sore (maybe from that practically-into-the-dugout catch he made on Saturday?). But if he’s now getting his timing back at the plate, and hitting a single instead of a double, he might be better staying in the lineup rather than have to go on the DL for two weeks and then re-start the “getting his timing back” process. Hopefully it’s nothing more than “sore” and he’ll be “fully up to speed’ in a week or so.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 24, 2015 at 12:24 PM

        Where Rendon’s quad really showed up for me last night was in his range. There were a couple of plays that he usually makes routinely that he didn’t get to at all, and even one that he made that was kind of awkward. He may need a day off today or tomorrow.

      • nats128 - Jun 24, 2015 at 1:46 PM

        Zero range.

    • abqnatsfan - Jun 24, 2015 at 2:10 PM

      you could see Rendon was hurt when he made the catch in the 9th against the rail. He hit it hard. Hopefully just a bruise and it will heal up fast. cost him i range and speed last night. But he helped ensure a no hitter, so I bet he is ok with the tradeoff.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    I agree that Denard is not quite 100%, but he is tied with MAT for the team lead in steals at 8. Taylor is 8-10, but Span is a perfect 8-8. But there have been a few times when we were all surprised that he didn’t go, but I’ll take a slightly hobbled Denard Span in CF, Harper in Rf and MAT in LF over any other outfield combination that this team can put out there right now.

  4. Doc - Jun 24, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    Man, I don’t know if I have ever had the opportunity of seeing the top 3 hitters in a lineup with such great +.300 averages (Rendon’s a few hits away from .300).

    And what a bunch of table setters for Harper who has become our best #4 cleanup guy!!!!! Now if Ramos, or someone else, could back up Harper in the 5th slot, we’d pack across a bunch of runs!!!!

  5. natsguy - Jun 24, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    The combo of Span and Rendon has been much more missed than Werth and RZIM.

  6. laddieblahblah - Jun 24, 2015 at 12:38 PM

    Strasburg’s inverted W – there is more to it than that. Sometimes it is inverted, sometimes it is horizontal. The amount of stress is complicated by the timing of the other elements of his delivery. See the video and the detailed explanation from 2010, right after he had to have TJ surgery:,_We_Have_A_(Timing)_Problem

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 24, 2015 at 12:50 PM

      In this pic you can see that SS’s right elbow is actually pointed down. The author compares SS’s delivery to one of the all-time greats, and explains how other elements of his mechanics (e.g. alignment) put unnecessary strain on his elbow:

      If I find a video of Steven’s revised mechanics I will post, and link. The Nats have gotten Strasburg to re-orient his alignment more directly toward home plate, which should reduce the strain on his elbow.

    • tcostant - Jun 24, 2015 at 3:29 PM

      Always wondered why they didn’t call his “inverted W” a “M” instead? I’m just saying…

      • natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2015 at 4:41 PM

        Yeah, what’s up with that? 😉

      • NatsLady - Jun 24, 2015 at 6:28 PM

        Look at what you typed. An “M” doesn’t look like an upside down “W” because of the slant.

  7. laddieblahblah - Jun 24, 2015 at 12:53 PM

    Certainly one of the more significant developments during yesterday’s game was the improved hitting of Anthony Rendon. When he’s on, he makes it look easy, and yesterday, he did.

    • natsdial8 - Jun 24, 2015 at 1:06 PM

      Anthony is always on except when the injury bug gets him . The kid is a natural .

    • nats128 - Jun 24, 2015 at 2:04 PM

      “When he’s on”

      I dont think he was on yesterday. BABIP worked for him. He had 2 bloops and 2 that found there way.

      He has been a doubleplay machine which has been some bad luck but I think goes to that his legs are bothering him and he cant leg these out.

      Defense was not good. If it wasnt hit right at him he had no range. Yes Im concerned. Of course if he gets multiple hits each game it usually makes up for the defensive issues.





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