NEW YORK -- Nationals center fielder Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 23 games in Thursday afternoon's 7-2 win against the Mets, which is seven shy of tying the team record of 30 set by Ryan Zimmerman in 2009.
Span was hitless in his first three at-bats, but it was a different story against Mets reliever Frank Francisco in his fourth at-bat. Span led off the eighth with a double to left-center field and would later score on a double by Zimmerman.
During the 23-game streak, Span is hitting 37-for-96 (.385), with two home runs and seven RBIs. The Nationals are 17-6 in games he has played during that period.
"Span is the catalyst. Your leadoff guys are always the catalyst," manager Davey Johnson said. "Last year, my right fielder [Jayson Werth], who is on fire now, he led off most of the year last year and he set the tone. And that is what's happening now with Span.
"[The guys] were excited that he kept the hitting streak alive. I mean, you should have seen the bench. They were yelling, whatever, so he's key. He keeps going, we are going to keep going."
Before making his fourth appearance at the plate, Span was thinking the streak might end. But after making a diving catch on a flare by Ruben Tejada, Span started to feel confident he could get a hit in his next at-bat.
"That kind of woke me up a little, and I put a good swing on a fastball," Span said. "When I got back in the dugout, everybody was like, 'You have to do it earlier than this. You are giving us a heart attack, man.' It's fun to hear everybody is with me."
Before the game, Span was planning to do things a little differently. He was going to wear different cleats for the game, until Stephen Strasburg said, "You sure you want to change your cleats?"
Span replied: "'You know what? You're right.'
"I came back and changed my cleats. I can tell everyone is rooting for me."
One of those teammates rooting for Span is Zimmerman.
"Denard is one of those guys that wasn't doing what he was capable up of during the middle of the year -- like a lot of us were," Zimmerman said. "You have to credit him for continuing to work hard, coming out ready to play every day. The last month and a half, he has been doing great. He is getting on base, getting hits. It's fun to have a guy like that at the top of your order."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.