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State of the Nats: Span on the road back

Aug 17, 2015, 3:34 PM EDT

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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 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…

Road ahead

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)

  1. jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    Best news of the day – No game.

  2. knoxvillenat - Aug 17, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    I’m curious why the third game in Colorado is starting at 8:40 and not earlier? I would have thought that it being a get away game the start time would have been sooner in the day.

    • jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:05 PM

      That’s easy. It’s not get away for the Rockies.

  3. hersheyman - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    As I said two weeks ago on this site, I would bring Turner up immediately. He might just change the dynamics completely and turn things around. If not, at least they tried something. Maybe I’m biased – I don’t believe in a highly conservative approach to anything.

    Also, Rizzo should make it his mission to re-sign Span. He is not injury prone, but came back too fast this year from off season surgery. Unlike the injuries for Zimm and Werth, the injury to Span should have no lasting effects. He is still reasonably young and his legs are still strong – a 3-5 year contract would be appropriate. What the Nats have never had is a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the order with both real base running threats. Like what the Expos had in the late 70s early 80s with LeFlore/Scott and then Raines/Scott. Each stealing 40-60 bases/year. It drives the opposition nuts, drives the offence, and is an absolute treat to watch.

  4. hersheyman - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:25 PM

    Meant 3-4 y contract for Span

    • jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:35 PM

      Very little chance they sign Span.They won’t give a player coming off what may be a chronic back injury a multi year contract IMO.

      • hersheyman - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:52 PM

        I do not remember it being chronic other than this year, due to overall weakness. Plus, back soreness injuries that are not disc related (which I dont think related to Span) are simply not a long-term issue if treated properly.

    • DaveB - Aug 17, 2015 at 5:06 PM

      I definitely don’t expect a multi-year contract for Span, but if he can come back and play well at the end of the year here, I think there is still a chance they make a QO, as I don’t think they would mind getting him for a 1 year contract, even if it is somewhat expensive (and the extra draft pick would be nice if he decides he wants to go for the multi-year contract).

  5. veejh - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    Getting Span back won’t do diddly right now. What about the other 7 batters that aren’t doing sheet?

    • hersheyman - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:49 PM

      Respectfully disagree. Look at the Nats record with vs without Span – complete opposite.

      With Turner and Span at the top, more fastballs for the next few hitters, pitchers trying to keep them close and losing their pitching rhythm, pitching from the stretch, losing more velocity on the fastball, etc. Everything works to the advantage of the next few hitters.

      • veejh - Aug 17, 2015 at 6:46 PM

        Oh, come on. I can’t stand it when people show stats like this. You think that stat is gonna transfer to the current state of affairs? I respectfully disagree right now.

  6. philipd763 - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:41 PM

    Nats 3 best pitchers are 25-23 for the season. That speaks volumes.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 17, 2015 at 5:35 PM

      Not sure what your point is here, unless it’s that the team hasn’t won more games despite the efforts of their three best pitchers. I could see W/L record being used in this fashion as a way of showing the team’s problems, even though W/L record is a poor way of analyzing a pitcher’s performance.

    • Dave - Aug 18, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      W/L is a meaningless stat by which to judge pitcher performance. Only the L side of that pair has any value whatsoever.

      Blown save/win.

    • unterp - Aug 18, 2015 at 12:51 PM

      I’m not nearly as bright as most of you, but I think W/L is the most important stat there is…

      • Dave - Aug 18, 2015 at 3:30 PM

        PITCHER W/L. I thought that was obvious.

        No pitcher’s pitching ever won a game. Pitching only prevents a loss.

        (Unless the pitcher actually scores the winning run, of course.)

  7. natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2015 at 4:47 PM

    Here’s hoping that Denard continues to feel good and is able to come back to the team fully healthy.

    Will be glad when this West Coast swing ends, so I can watch games again. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Be careful what you wish for. ;-))

  8. kiawah51 - Aug 17, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    Whiffed on 46% of Bumgartners pitches. The most previous vs. Bumgartner was 27%. You want to know why there done that’s the answer. Go back and look at how they did against average pitchers (K’s and whiffs) and the numbers are staggering. The writing was on the wall against the Cardinals three years ago and Giants last year in the playoffs. And everyone keeps talking about “proven track records”. THese guys suck and can’t hit period.
    Can we please put an end to this nonsense of who they really are.

    • bowdenball - Aug 17, 2015 at 5:09 PM

      I’m not 100% sure what conclusion you’re trying to draw, but this team faced Bumgarner just six weeks ago and hung 6 runs on him in 5 innings of work. He struck out only four guys before they chased him. Why does yesterday’s sorry effort encapsulate something about the team and the game six weeks ago does not?

      As for three years ago vs the Cardinals- there are only three guys in the starting lineup from that series still on the team, and one of them is the leading MVP candidate. There is no reason to think that team’s failings, or lack thereof, has anything to do with this team’s failings.

      An end to nonsense, indeed.

      • Dave - Aug 18, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        But, you know, Nationals uniform. Rizzo. Half Street. Stuff like that. “This team,” etc., etc.

  9. Doc - Aug 17, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    Honk the horns when the Nats are serious contenders again—hopefully before April of 2016!

  10. Another_Sam - Aug 17, 2015 at 7:13 PM

    The only news that will be encouraging news to me is a win. Followed immediately by another.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2015 at 7:47 PM

      I’ll have what he’s having. Eh, make it a double.

  11. NatsLady - Aug 17, 2015 at 7:27 PM

    The pitching matchups are not great for the O’s, they get deGram (vs Gausman) and Syndergaard (vs Jimenez). Gausman was the hot stud prospect, but the O’s have not handled him well and he is floundering. The best that can be said for Jimenez is he’s better than he was last year and he’s capable of having a good game–about half the time.

    OTOH, since they got no-hit, the O’s bats have come alive and of course the Mets will have to face the DH in that bandbox, in the heat and humidity.

    • stoatva - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:27 PM

      Were I a Mets fan I would be pretty apprehensive, given his recent form, about Syndergaard in the Birdcage, where cans-o-corn routinely turn into three run homers. deGrom can likely take care of himself, but in that Williamsport knock-off even the best pitchers can blow up.

  12. Jfmii - Aug 17, 2015 at 7:28 PM

    This team’s projected success came from starting pitching. That element, other than Scherzer, has not lived up to expectations all year. Now with Max in a funk, it is now a weakness. A big debilitating weakness

    No starting pitching, no playoff.

  13. TimDz - Aug 17, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    It’s come to this….Tuesday and Wednesday, we need to root for the Angelo’s…..

    Kind of akin to kissing Hitler on the lips….

  14. natsguy - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:42 PM

    If I hear “tip your cap” or “grinding” one more time I may have to take the rest of the year off. Can they hear themselves? Geez, Jackie Robinson is probably rolling in his grave to hear this BS. Get off your asses and get a little agressive. Too laid back, too busy grinding and tipping. Make them tip to you.

    • rlndtln - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:58 PM

      No emotion from MW.It took McCatty to show some frustration and get thrown out.I think the least MW could have done was to charge the Umpire any one them that was calling balls and strikes like a blind man and stick up for one of his batters or pitchers and get his ass thrown out kicking and screaming.Maybe it would unite this team and show some fight.

      • Dave - Aug 18, 2015 at 11:51 AM

        Yeah, Matt should probably hit somebody. That’d wake everybody up.

        Or something.

  15. xbonat - Aug 17, 2015 at 10:01 PM

    I hope He heals up soon for a healthy and productive September, as he needs to make himself look valuable for an off-season signing to whomever. He’s 31, with lots of wear n tear on that body playing lead-off and center with all the sliding and crashing over the last eight years, plus his two surgeries and a nasty back over the last seven months. I would be hesitant signing Span to a big and long contract with the potential of getting stuck with the liability.

    • veejh - Aug 17, 2015 at 11:19 PM

      There’s a perception that the team got old quickly exacerbated by the amount of injuries this season. I have no issue with moving on from Span next year. I almost feel like next season will be a mini rebuild while we wait for young talent to continue to develop in the minors. 2017 should be a season to look forward to.

  16. edbrinkman - Aug 18, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    Let’s see, has there ever been a manager of the year that got fired the following season? Oh wait, I think I know of one – Davey Johnson when he was with the Orioles!!

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Aug 18, 2015 at 8:45 AM

      It wasn’t the following season, it was the same season. And on the same day he was named MOTY, IIRC. But technically he didn’t get fired, he “resigned.”





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 Click here for past audio clips.

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