Aug 17, 2015, 3:34 PM EDT
Span is on his way back – It was a rough week for the Nationals, who went 1-6 to begin their West Coast road trip. But they did get some very encouraging news on Sunday with the announcement that Denard Span was beginning his minor league rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac.
Span has been on the disabled list since July 7 with back tightness. The Nats’ center fielder has experienced setbacks along the way and told MLB.com recently he wasn’t sure if he would return this season. But there he was on Sunday, in the lineup for the P-Nats.
Span went 0-for-2 in the game against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. He flew out to center field in his first at-bat and grounded out to the pitcher his second time up. He was then replaced in the top of the fourth inning by Rafael Bautista.
Just because Span is playing minor league games, it doesn’t mean his return to the majors will happen immediately. The Nationals have insisted they will take their time to prevent any more setbacks. But him making progress after so many discouraging reports is obviously a very good sign. The Nats are 35-24 when Span is in the lineup this year and 23-35 without him. Getting him back won’t solve everything, it’s not as simple as those records suggest, but it will certainly help.
On to Colorado – The Nationals just got swept in a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants and now they move on to play the Rockies in Colorado. The Rockies have the second-worst record in baseball, but they proved last weekend they are no easy matchup for the Nats.
The Rockies took two of three in Washington with the help of two late-game blowups by Drew Storen. Carlos Gonzalez tormented them with three homers in the series and the Nats’ pitching staff had plenty of trouble with their lineup overall. Since that series, however, the Rockies have won just one of seven games. They followed their series win against the Nats with a six-game losing streak.
The Nats weren’t able to take advantage of playing the woeful Rockies last time, so let’s try this again. The Nationals will have their three best pitchers on the mound in Denver, perhaps that will help.
Here are the matchups:
Tue. – Jordan Zimmermann (8-8, 3.34) vs. David Hale (3-4, 5.69)
Wed. – Stephen Strasburg (6-6, 4.62) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (7-5, 4.75)
Thu. – Max Scherzer (11-9, 2.73) vs. Yohan Flande (2-1. 4.19)
Looking at the final game of that series, for instance. Flande helped the Rockies beat Scherzer in D.C. on Aug. 9. That can’t possibly happen again, can it?
Checking in on the Mets – While Mets fans ridicule me on Twitter for essentially saying the Nats should feel lucky they are in the NL East because New York isn’t that great of a team, I thought it was a good time to check in and look at the road ahead for the club the Nats are chasing in the standings. The Mets were just swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates and up next for them is two games at the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s have won four of six and currently own a spot in the AL Wild Card race. That will certainly not be easy for the Metropolitans.
But after that, the Mets schedule eases up considerably. After Baltimore and before they see the Nats again on Sept. 7, the Mets play at the Rockies (48-68), at the Phillies (46-72), vs. the Red Sox (52-65), vs. the Phillies and at the Marlins (47-70). The Nationals only play one team with a winning record (the Cardinals) during that stretch. Who will take advantage? The NL East race could look a lot different by the time these two teams meet again.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Bryce Harper 8/14 vs. Giants – 1-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, R, SF.
Pitching game of the week: Gio Gonzalez 8/10 vs. Dodgers – 8 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, BB, 6 SO. 117 pitches, 76 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Harper on hitting homer No. 30…
I’m playing for 40. If you are not worried about 30, you are not worried about 40. I want to hit 40 or 50. I want to keep going. I want to keep battling.
Tweet of the week:
Slowly, but surely, Span is coming back…
Felt good to strap on my cleats and do what I love to do ! #godisawesome
— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) August 16, 2015
MON – OFF
TUE – 8:40 p.m. at Colorado Rockies (Zimmermann)
WED – 8:40 p.m. at Colorado Rockies (Strasburg)
THU – 8:40 p.m. at Colorado Rockies (Scherzer)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Gonzalez)
SAT – 7:05 p.m. vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Ross)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Zimmermann)
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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