How do Nationals flip narrow losses into narrow wins?

The Nationals knew this was going to be a tough road trip. But this tough? Yikes.

Already 1-5 at Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the Nats now must head to Los Angeles for a four-game series at Dodger Stadium against the National League’s best team to date in 2019. And they’ll do so with a lineup still decimated by injuries, a bullpen still lacking in reliable arms and a defense still unable to make routine plays (let alone non-routine plays).

This team has gone 3-14 over the last 2 1/2 weeks. And two of those wins required late comebacks. Basically at this point, the Nationals need to pull off a nightly miracle just to win a game.

Yes, this is how bad things have gotten.

Martinez-Argues-Bucknor-sidebar.jpgNow the crazy part. Even though they’re losing nearly every night, the Nationals are in position to win almost every night. In their last 10 losses, they have (in order):

* Led in the seventh inning

* Tied in the 10th inning

* Led in the fifth inning

* Trailed by one run since the fourth inning

* Trailed by two runs in the eighth inning

* Led in the sixth inning

* Trailed by one run in the sixth inning

* Led in the seventh inning

* Tied in the seventh inning

* Brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning

That is remarkable. Remarkable that they were in position so many times to win but couldn’t. Remarkable that they kept finding ways to lose. Remarkable that they kept losing in increasingly agonizing fashion.

The optimistic view would suggest if the Nationals simply clean things up, they’re bound to start turning these narrow losses into narrow wins,

“That’s how you turn it around,” Adam Eaton said. “Just play a better brand of baseball. Limit errors and bad play, and good things are going to happen.”

The pessimistic view would suggest this team doesn’t have the ability to clean things up. The bullpen isn’t going to magically get better overnight. The lineup, while slowly getting healthier, isn’t magically going to start figuring out how to make contact with two strikes. The defense isn’t going to magically turn elite.

Those who wear the uniform don’t want to think in those terms, though. They cling to the optimistic view. And really, what else can they do at this point?

“We’ve got to keep our heads up,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ve got to come out tomorrow and play baseball, good baseball. We’ve got Pat Corbin pitching tomorrow. He’s going to keep us in the game. We’ve got to attack early, score early and just get outs when we can.”

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