Washington's speedy center fielder sparked a 15-hit onslaught in the 13-12 win over the Atlanta Braves with five hits, including three doubles and his first home run of the year. The 5-for-6 outburst pushed his average from .207 to .314 and his on-base percentage from .250 to .342.
More important, Span's fourth five-hit game of his career could serve as the catalyst to break the formerly moribund Nationals out of their season-long offensive coma.
"This definitely is the type of game that can change the spirits of a ballclub," Span said in a joyous Washington clubhouse at Turner Field. "I'm not saying it will. But we definitely needed something like tonight."
The Nationals fell behind early when spot starter and No. 3 prospect A.J. Cole gave up nine runs (four earned) in the first two innings of his Major League debut. They dropped behind by eight runs again, 10-2, after four innings.
But the Nats, with Span showing the way, kept coming back.
Span had a single and scored in the first. He had a double to left and scored in the third. He doubled again to start the Nationals' four-run fifth and scored again. He smacked his homer, a solo shot, in the sixth.
Span then flied out to end a three-run seventh, but he doubled again after Dan Uggla's three-run homer in the ninth to cap off a remarkable night. Key to his success, he said, was staying aggressive. Span's doubles in the third and fifth were both on first pitches. His homer in the sixth was on an 0-1 pitch.
"It's important for us to stay where we're at, stay aggressive and be us," manager Matt Williams said.
Said Span: "It's how you play the game. Take chances. That's how you win ballgames, by pressing the envelope and putting pressure on the other team."
Span and Uggla weren't the only stars for Washington. Catcher Jose Lobaton had three hits, including a big three-run home run. Nobody on the Nationals seemed to blink, even when they were down eight runs.
"After we got down [early], we said, 'We got seven innings to play. We got three more at-bats each, at least,'" third baseman Danny Espinosa said. "We just tried to put a run up on the board every single inning and creep our way back."
Span's 11 total bases was a career high. He now has 22 career games with at least four hits, second only to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.
"I was just kind of relaxed," Span said. "You know, we were down by eight, so I said, 'Let me just put together some good at-bats and try to do the best I can, selfishly, individually. Before you know it, we kept battling and chipping away."
John Donovan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.