The Washington Times - September 12, 2013, 09:24PM

NEW YORK — Denard Span was preparing himself for Thursday afternoon’s matinee against the New York Mets when, for whatever reason, he decided to do some things differently. Instead of wearing his pants all the way down, he opted for high socks. Instead of the same cleats he’d worn everyday for the last three weeks or so, he tossed on a different pair. 

He was heading from the clubhouse to the field to stretch and warm up when Stephen Strasburg spotted him. 

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“You sure you want to change your cleats?” Strasburg asked. 

“You know what?” Span said. “You’re right.”

He turned himself around, marched back into the clubhouse and changed. 

In his fourth plate appearance on Thursday, Span smacked a double into right center field and extended his career-long hitting streak to 23 games. 

“I was getting a little nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Span said, letting out a wry smile.

“After the line out (to end the fifth inning) I was like ‘Yeah, it might be one of those days.’ I was in-between thinking positive and trying not to think about it at all. I was like ‘You know what? If it ended today, I’m thankful for the streak and how it’s helped balance my season back.’”

When Span got to second base, he smacked his hands together and pointed to the sky before letting out a wide smile. In the dugout, his teammates erupted.

“You should have seen the bench,” said manager Davey Johnson. “They were up and yelling and whatever.”

As they should be.

Over the course of Span’s hitting streak, the Nationals are 17-6 and he’s hitting .385. He had only one hit on Thursday, but he also has seven multi-hit games over the course of the streak. He’s returned his offensive numbers to close to his career marks, and he’s scored 16 runs in that stretch.

“He’s the catalyst,” Johnson said. 

“It’s great,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who owns the longest hitting streak (30 games in 2009) in Nationals history.

“Denard is one of those guys who kind of through the middle of the year wasn’t doing what he knew he was capable of, like a lot of us were. Got to credit him. He continued to work hard and came everyday ready to play and the last month, month-and-a-half, he’s been doing great, getting on base, getting hits. It’s fun to have that guy on top of your order.”

A lot of the streak has been devoid of drama, though, with Span getting at least one hit out of the way early. Thursday was different.

When Span got back to the dugout after scoring on Zimmerman’s double, teammates swarmed him.

“Everybody was like ‘You’ve got to do it earlier, man, you’re giving us a heart attack,’” Span said. “It’s fun just to hear everybody with me… I can tell everybody’s rooting for me.”

“It’s hard to do,” Zimmerman said. “It’s hard to get a hit that many games in a row. Obviously anything any of our teammates do we root for them, but it’s fun to be a part of.”