Nats’ keys to success: Keep winning rubber games, keep winning series

MIAMI - The Nationals’ longest winning streak of the season is five games.

That’s it, just five games.

They haven’t ripped off any type of magical 10-game stretch yet this season. They haven’t caught fire and instantly shot themselves up the National League standings within a brief span.

So how do the Nationals currently sit atop the NL East and own the best winning percentage among all National League teams?

Here’s how: Since May 30, the Nats are 12-1-2 in series with at least two games played.

desmond-swinging-red-with-bat-sidebar.jpgYup, of the 16 series the Nats have played in nearly the last two months, they’ve lost just one of them - a three-game sweep in St. Louis. The originally scheduled four games against the Orioles count as two series; the Nats lost and were rained out in D.C. and split two games at Camden Yards. The Aug. 4 makeup of the rainout will count as a one-game series.

Taking two out of three games in a series might not be the sexy way to go about things. Sweeps are a lot more fun, of course, and if you can rattle off a handful of series sweeps, you can improve your record in a hurry.

The Nats’ way of going about things has been more methodical, but just as effective. Instead of getting really hot one stretch and then hitting a major slump in another - which we’ve seen a number of contending teams, like the Giants, Brewers and Cardinals, do this season - the Nats have consistently played solid baseball over the last few months and it’s paying off for them.

“Our focus is to go out there and win series,” right-hander Doug Fister said after yesterday’s 4-2 win that closed out a series victory in Cincinnati. “We want to win every game that we prepare for, but as long as we can win every series, we should be OK.”

Not only are the Nats taking care of business and winning series at home, but they’re also doing so on the road. Washington is one of just six NL teams with an above-.500 record on the road at 27-25, to go along with an impressive 30-20 mark at Nats Park.

Twelve times this season, the Nats have played a rubber game - a game that determines the outcome of a three-game series. In those 12 games, the Nats are 9-3, including 5-2 on the road.

They’re finding ways to win series, even away from the nation’s capital. And if they keep it up, they’ll have a very good shot to take home a second division title in the last three years.

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