The great John Lowenstein — Baltimore Orioles outfielder and philosopher — put winning streaks in perspective when he declared, “The secret to keeping winning streaks is maximizing the victories while at the same time minimizing the defeats.”
So there you go.
The Washington Nationals have tested that theory during their current winning streak, to some extent, with this simple philosophy — just bat last.
While the Redskins pass time by playing out the NFL’s pretend portion of the football schedule — with their hands covering their eyes watching their franchise quarterback run for his life — the Nationals have captured Washington’s attention by winning.
Winning every game.
Winning games that they seemed intent on losing, in the nightly drama that has played out at Nationals Park.
Thursday afternoon, the Nationals won their 10th straight, which in and of itself was worthy of notice and celebration. But they have won five of their last six games in the last at-bat — the highlight of all highlights, the walk-off victory.
It takes hard work to win like that night after night. You almost have to try to set up that dramatic scenario, night after night.
The Nationals have been doing their part, with three of those five wins coming after they blew the lead in the eighth or ninth inning.
It is like the lion tamer sticking his head inside the lion’s head, night after night, with a steak tied around his head.
In other words, not just tempting fate, but daring fate.
“That’s not the way you draw them up,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said after their 3-2 come-from-behind victory Wednesday night over Arizona — a triumph set up by their All-Star set up hurler, Tyler Clippard, blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning. “But they don’t stop fighting, that’s for sure.”
Now, the down side in this is that the Washington Nationals are not supposed to be the cardiac kids. They are not supposed to be the Little Engine that Could. This is a team that some observers considered the most talented in the National League before the season began. They should be dominating teams, not saving themselves from losing.
But what sells the underdog theme is how many injuries this talented team has suffered this season — one of their main stars, Ryan Zimmerman, remains out with a severe hamstring strain — yet they have remained competitive atop the National League East and are now distancing themselves from their rivals, the Atlanta Braves.
“Earlier in the year, we had some injuries and still kept fighting and winning ballgames without three or four of our starters at a time,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who had a walk-off home run in Washington’s 11-inning, 5-4 victory over the Diamondbacks Tuesday night.