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“I’m going to be honest with you, when they got that extra run in the ninth, I was like ‘It’s not going to be too good for us,’” said Span. “He’s the best closer in the game. And once he walked the leadoff hitter I was like ‘You know what? We might have a chance.’ He didn’t look himself.”

Chad Tracy pinch-hit, and smacked a 1-2 slider toward first baseman Freddie Freeman as LaRoche scored and the Nationals made it a one-run game. Span took one pitch and connected with a 98-mph fastball that sprinted up the middle. Simmons, who had made 11 errors all season, let the ball go through his legs.

“I said, ‘That’s the game right there,’” Span said. “Turned around and everybody was jumping me.”

But as they danced on the infield dirt Tuesday afternoon, their incredible win had done more than just given a sentimental boost to anyone who needed a distraction from the harshness of real life.

The Nationals moved to 4½ games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the final wild card spot, and they ensured the Braves would not pop champagne at the end of this day to celebrate a division crown.

“I said coming in here, we have to show these guys that we can beat them,” Johnson said. “We don’t want them thinking they can just roll over us. … We just have to show them: This is our home. This is our yard. You can’t do that to us. I feel we’ve got an as good or better ballclub.”

They retreated to their clubhouse, hoping to ride the emotion that bubbled over at the end of their matinee in a nightcap that held just as much weight with regard to their playoff chances.

But it was already a good day.

“The last time I pitched, I wore the [blue] jersey, in New York [on] September 11,” Haren said. “To wear it and have that ‘W’ on our chest with the red, white and blue in it and the Navy hats, I thought it was really cool. … There’s more to life than baseball. I think everyone in here knows that.”

NOTES: Ramos’ streak of starting 24 consecutive games behind the plate came to an end on Tuesday when he did not start the second game of the doubleheader. … Span extended his hitting streak to 27 games in the first game Tuesday and would look to make it 28 in the nightcap.