- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

After Wednesday’s game was postponed because of rain, giving a banged-up Washington Nationals team another day to heal, manager Matt Williams was sarcastically asked if his rain dance had worked. He smiled.

“Next,” he said.

Wednesday’s postponement will create “added stress” in Washington’s schedule, Williams said. The two teams were not scheduled to play one another again this season, meaning the Reds will now have to make a special trip to Washington on one of their mutual off days. One such day is Aug. 17, when the Nationals will be in the midst of a West Coast road trip, and another is Sept. 28, in the final week of the regular season.

Williams said no makeup date had been determined as of early Wednesday night. His focus is on the present. The postponement is, in many ways, a relief. Coupled with Thursday’s scheduled off day, it will give the Nationals consecutive days of rest, with the all-star break around the corner.

Considering the injuries that they have dealt with thus far, every extra day helps.

“I don’t know if I can remember a team that’s been hit so hard [by injuries],” Williams said. “But we do have light coming. Guys are getting healthy. We do have the all-star break coming, which will provide a little bit of respite in that regard.”

The Nationals have placed 13 players on the disabled list this season, with Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth all making multiple trips. Center fielder Denard Span could join that group depending on the severity of his back injury.

Span has been dealing with back spasms for a month and underwent an MRI exam Tuesday morning. He will see a back specialist in Dallason Thursday with hopes of pinpointing the root of the issue. The 31-year-old said he does not expect to play again before the break.

“The last month, it was kind of hard to tell because I was bouncing back,” Span said. “I was doing a bunch of exercises and I was responding fairly well. I was still maintaining my play on the field, so we didn’t think it was anything serious. But, like I said, it’s gotten to the point now where I’ve got to figure out what is going on. This is bigger than today. Hopefully, I want to play for another 10 years, so I’ve got to figure this out.”

Through the first 84 games of this season, the Nationals have put a player on the disabled list 16 times. They did that 18 times all of last season. Despite those injuries, they have a strong chance of reaching the all-star break, the season’s unofficial midway point, with a strong hold on first place in the National League East. They have a record of 46-38 with three games left to play before the hiatus.

Many of Washington’s losses have proven to be more substantial than anticipated. The absences of Rendon, Werth and Ryan Zimmerman have subtracted power from the lineup, making it difficult to build a lineup around Bryce Harper, who is in the middle of the best season of his four-year career.

Williams said there are many factors that come into play on any given day.

“There’s a lot made of who hits behind Bryce and who doesn’t, but we understand that we want RBI guys back there because there’s a great possibility he could be on base,” Williams said. “You want a little power there because with one swing of the bat, it can mean two, and when you have so many guys out, that may be important in that particular game. There’s a million factors.”

Even with veterans like Werth and Zimmerman out for long stretches, Washington continues to win with Clint Robinson, Matt den Dekker and other reserves in the lineup.

“The depth is key, because you never know what may come,” Williams said. “The good thing is, we have guys that are available and can go out there and play at this level and produce and stem the tide until our regulars do return.”

Yunel Escobar is one such player. He left Monday’s game with tightness in his left hamstring, but Williams said the third baseman was doing better on Wednesday and would have been available to hit off the bench.

When asked if the injuries have caused him to search for a root cause, like how the Nationals train or maintain their bodies during the year, he demurred, chalking them up to bad luck.

“Often times, they are a product of the game, whether it’s Jayson getting hit, Zim breaking a thumb, Bryce hurting his thumb at third base, or Wilson [Ramos] with his hamstring. Those things you cannot control,” Williams said. “The program hasn’t changed, so I don’t see systemic issues there. What I do see is a little run of bad luck in that regard. And, at the same time, [this is] a team that has fought through it and will continue to.”

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