Following their 3-2 victory over Houston last night, the team’s fifth triumph decided by run one this season, Washington Nationals players continued to stress a dramatic shift in how this club approaches such situations compared to past years.
These days, the mind-set in the dugout includes the belief the Nationals will find a way to prevail rather than simply hoping to do so. That in large part has led to a National League-best 10-3 start in becoming one of two teams in the big leagues with double-digit victories.
“It just feels like no matter who’s up there and what situation we’re in that somebody’s going to come through and make it happen,” center fielder Rick Ankiel said. “When you feel like that, you never feel like the game’s over.”
Last night catcher Wilson Ramos was responsible for driving in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth after the Nationals had fallen behind, 2-1, and pitcher Jordan Zimmermann absorbed another quality start without collecting a victory.
Still, over the course of a 162-game season, the percentages figure to catch up with Washington, which five times has scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later.
Then consider eight of the Nationals’ win have come against teams with a combined winning percentage of .305.
Washington also ranks ninth in the NL in runs and RBI despite combining for 112 hits, the fourth most in the majors.
“The offense is just barely getting enough to outscore them,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I mean it makes for intersting ballgames.”
No doubt the Nationals would welcome fewer nail-biters, but no one in the clubhouse seems particularly concerned with the margin of the final score so long as Washington keeps winning.
That attitude comes in large part from supreme belief in the pitching staff, particularly the starters. The Nationals’ starting rotation has a collective ERA of 1.65, and the pitching staff as a whole leads the NL in ERA, innings, strikeouts and WHIP.
“We’re going to battle all night long,” Zimmermann said. “We’re never going to give up. We’re going to play 27 outs. We’ve been down late in ball games and battled back, so that tells you a lot about the ballclub.”