The Washington Times - June 15, 2012, 06:45PM

There were no gimmicks. No promotions. No slogans. 

There was only this: The New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, scheduled to play three games at Nationals Park in a battle of the first-place teams in arguably the two toughest divisions in baseball.

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And the Nationals were expecting capacity crowds all weekend.

It’s no secret as to why.

“Yeah, winning,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, delivering his answer with an unflinching gaze. “Winning makes everything better.”

For years the Nationals have tried to figure out how to get fans to Nationals Park without focusing on the baseball team. There wasn’t much to focus on for a while. The Nationals went through lean years where there wasn’t much to see. But the players knew, as they played to intimate crowds, that there was only one surefire way to gain fans. That was winning. 

“I wouldn’t come watch us play the Phillies and lose,” Zimmerman said. “That’s what I’ve said the whole time. Why would you take your money and pay for a ticket to see a team that loses 100 games a year? Everyone says oh, this, that. It’s winning. Winning makes everything better.”

“Everybody will always support a winner,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t really accomplished anything yet. Coming up as a player in Baltimore, it was a football town. I mean, Johnny U. Shoot.Of course, when I got there we had Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell and then we picked up Frank Robinson. But when we started winning in ‘66, Baltimore became a baseball town. And we happened to win a few years, made four trips to the World Series. It was a pretty good town for baseball.

“I think it’s no different here. Fans love a winner. They can be a little distrusting early, but we have to show that we’re capable of winning in the long haul. And I think management and ownership has put this team together to win in the long haul.”