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State of the Nats: Span very close; Harper on shifts

Aug 24, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT

USA Today

Top storylines:

Span looks very close – Denard Span completed his sixth minor league rehab assignment game on Sunday and went 1-for-3 with Double-A Harrisburg. The Nats center fielder is now 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer, three walks, an RBI, six runs and one steal in 20 total plate appearances since he began playing again.

Those are pretty good numbers and that’s a decent sample size. Sure, he could probably use a little more time to recover from the back tightness that landed him on the disabled list on July 7. But the Nats themselves only have 39 games left. If they are going to make a real run for this thing, the time is now.

Span may be still working on his timing, but this year he has played well no matter the circumstances. He missed much of spring training and at times has battled through back pain, yet holds a .304/.367/.430 slash line with five homers, 37 runs, 15 doubles, 24 walks and 11 steals in 59 games.

One can imagine Span will be back very soon, maybe even as early as Tuesday. We have pointed to the Nats’ record with him (35-24) and without him (27-37) this season many times. Getting him back won’t solve everything, but there’s no debating their lineup works a whole lot better with him setting the table.

Shifts do not concern Harper – The Brewers applied some heavy shifts on Bryce Harper during this past weekend’s series, but on Sunday he twice took advantage by hitting the ball the other way for a double. The first came in the third inning when Harper poked a groundball into left field. It would have normally been a groundout if the third baseman was in his normal position, but instead it allowed Harper to reach second and Anthony Rendon to reach third.

Harper also doubled in the fourth on a bloop hit to shallow left field. Again, the Brewers’ gamble with a shift did not work out. Harper talked about beating those shifts after Sunday’s win:

“I really don’t care if there’s guys on the other side or if there are guys on one side. I really don’t. I know I can hit the ball to that side of the field anytime I want. It really doesn’t bother me at all.”

Checking in on the Mets – While the Nats were winning two of three against the Brewers over the weeknd, the Mets were taking care of their own business in Colorado with a three-game sweep. the Mets scored 33 runs combined in those games and have notched at least five runs in eight of their last nine games.

Unfortunately for the Nats, the Mets’ road ahead is more favorable. They go at last-place Philly (50-74), then return home to play last-place Boston (56-68) and then the Phillies again. The Nats, on the other hand, will host 61-63 San Diego and the Marlins before going to St. Louis to play the Cardinals, who own the best record in baseball.

In order to gain some ground over the next two weeks, the Nationals will have to pile up some wins against teams with much better records than the ones the Mets will be facing.

NL East Standings

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NL Wild Card Standings:

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Offensive game of the week: Yunel Escobar 8/18 vs. Rockies – 3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB.

Pitching game of the week: Stephen Strasburg 8/19 vs. Rockies – 7 IP, R, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 5 SO. 93 pitches, 68 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Trea Turner on getting called up…

[Syracuse manager Billy Gardner] actually just asked me if I’ve ever been to Washington, D.C. before and let me know I was going back there because I had visited once when I was younger. We were watching the new movie ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ It was actually a very good movie, but it made it a little bit better getting that news.

Tweet (Instagram) of the week:

From Yunel Escobar’s Instagram, with the caption: ‘#LoveMyTeam #BeYourself’

source:

Road ahead

MON – OFF
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Diego Padres (Strasburg)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Diego Padres (Scherzer)
THU – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Diego Padres (Gonzalez)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Ross)
SAT – 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Zimmermann)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Strasburg)

  1. slidell2 - Aug 24, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    I frankly don’t understand why anyone in MLB would think a shift would be effective against Bryce. I’ve seen him poke stuff to the left side numerous times. He seems comfortable at working with whatever pitchers give him.

    • Section 222 - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:29 PM

      I’ve seen it too. But I’ve seen him hit rocket ground balls over the bag at 2nd or at the second baseman much more often. He’s a natural pull hitter as are most power hitters. I thought his opposite field doubles yesterday were awesome, but I’d have to see his spray charts to make the claim that shifts aren’t effective. Seems pretty clear that they are effective, and that’s why other teams use them.

      But if Bryce starts consistently poking doubles to left, they might change their tune.

  2. micksback1 - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:07 PM

    thought I would copy and paste what I posted to natsjack bout other storylines and see what you all think:

    in the mean time, there are still some cool story lines to follow and root for as far as nats fans go and i am sure others may have brought this up:

    1) possible Triple Crown for Bryce

    2) Bryce hitting 40 plus and maybe 90-100 RBI’s

    3) Max and Stras in top 4-5 KO’s

    4) long sgot, but Michael a hitting 20 HR’s?

    that is the one thing about baseball that makes it greater than all other sprts, especially since for the fisrt 99 years 1869-1968 only the AL and NL champs played post season. if your team finished 500 plus and had aleague leader in either wins, ERA, HR’ stolen bases, etc.. it was pretty good season!

    • natsochist - Aug 24, 2015 at 2:32 PM

      Mick, love the thought on the triple crown, but he has himself a 19-RBI deficit to dig himself out of first.

  3. therealjohnc - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    Um, no, Chase – 17 at bats (20 plate appearances) is NOT a “decent sample size.” It actually provides very little to no useful information on what to expect of Span when he gets back. No statistician worth a dime would use that size sample for analysis – there’s too much noise to figure out the signal. Remember when Werth was crushing the ball on rehab and Ryan Zimmerman had something like 1 hit in 17 at bats? Since they got back Werth has looked awful and Zim has been crushing the ball. Minor league rehab stats aren’t helpful. What is important is how Span is moving/feeling, whether he’s healthy. A stat line based on 20 plate appearances doesn’t contribute much to that conversation.

    • pburm9qp - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:27 PM

      Starting a comment with “Um, no, Chase” makes you like, totally, sound like a 15 year old girl. Not sure if that is what you were going for in your otherwise valid criticism over sample sizes.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:51 PM

        Huh?

      • pburm9qp - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:58 PM

        Gene, they must not have candy stripers at the retirement home in Oregon, so you aren’t down with the new jargon and the Backstreet Boys.

        To explain, I was gently ribbing the guy for starting a sentence with “Um.” I just didn’t know that adults did that. But we are adults that watch a game and then comment incessantly about it online, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:35 PM

        It’s a regionalism. Don’t get ’em bunched, qp.

  4. Doc - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:48 PM

    If Span is like the other DL returnees, he will be disturbing something, not reinforcing something.

  5. Karl Kolchak - Aug 24, 2015 at 1:58 PM

    Only problem with Span returning is that they will no doubt bench Taylor instead of Werth, thereby essentially negating the advantage of Span’s return given that Taylor has hit as many home runs in the past four games as Werth has all season and is far ahead of Werth defensively these days.

    • Section 222 - Aug 24, 2015 at 2:48 PM

      I agree with this concern. Perhaps MAT will still get significant playing time, resting Span vs. lefties, and Werth just as much because of his old legs.

  6. destewart01 - Aug 24, 2015 at 2:42 PM

    I think Span should bat 9th and the pitcher 8th when he comes off the DL. Why break up a good thing with Werth leading off?

  7. Section 222 - Aug 24, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    I absolutely love what Harper did yesterday against the shift. That was just plain impressive. I can imagine an opposing manager saying, “fine, if he’s trying to dink a hit, he’s not going to blast it out of the park.” But still, two doubles in a row was so great.

  8. kiawah51 - Aug 24, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    Bottom line I believe if the mets play 500 ball through the end of the year we need to go 25 and 14. No way mets are only playing 500 ball and the more they win obviously the more we need to. And sorry whe’re not going like 28 and 11. See ya

    • jd - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      There you go. You figured it all out. No sense watching any more baseball for you. Me, I like to watch the games until we win or are eliminated, neither of which has happened or is about to happen any time soon.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 24, 2015 at 7:34 PM

        See, that’s where I dissent from many of the more knowledgeable posters here. I don’t know who’s going to win before the games are played, and honestly, I only care a little bit. I watch for the baseball. If my team loses, that’s disappointing, sure, but if it was a good game, then it was a good game. I have been largely denied the benefits of Championship-itis.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 24, 2015 at 6:08 PM

      So long! See you in Viera!

  9. erocks33 - Aug 24, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    I’m not sure that the Mets will have an easy time against Philly this week (and next). In the last 30 games, the Phills have gone 18-12. Only the Mets (19-11), Cardinals (19-11), Pirates (20-10), Cubs (21-9!) and the Diamondbacks (19-11) have played better.

    Who knows, maybe the Phillies have a couple of Levale Speigner-games in them!!

    • kiawah51 - Aug 24, 2015 at 10:18 PM

      14 runs in the 7th Tough time with Phillies

  10. natsfan1a - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    Activate the Cone of Reverse Lock over Philly and set it for four days. Works every time.

  11. natsjackinfl - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    Question (with tongue firmly planted in cheek). Can Michael A. Taylor catch?

    • natfan33 - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:55 PM

      How about, “Can Danny Espinosa catch”?

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 24, 2015 at 5:32 PM

      Good one,both of you.

      • Steady Eddie - Aug 24, 2015 at 6:03 PM

        Wasn’t Danny supposed to be the emergency catcher?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 24, 2015 at 7:35 PM

        Eddie, I do believe I have heard that rumored.

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