|Strasburg, above, could be done in early September. (Photo: pennlive.com)|
The Nationals have never been in this position before. They currently sit atop the NL East standings by four games over the Atlanta Braves and 14 games ahead of the last place Philadelphia Phillies.
As the second half kicks off, here are a few things to keep in mind...
It's All NL East From Here
Well...not quite. But, a majority of the remaining games, about 70-80%, for the Nationals are all against the NL East. Any kind of losing streak now could blow the lead and their chances of winning the division this season. To combat that, when the Nationals play teams not in the NL East, they need to at least win the series. They don't need to sweep teams, they need to win the series. Taking 2-out of-3 or 3-out of-4 games against non-NL East opponents will go along way in the standings.
Key Players Return
Some of the Nationals best players have yet to even take the field this season. With the likes of Chad Tracy, Drew Storen, and Jayson Werth currently on the DL, this team has a lot of talent that isn't yet available. The sooner those players get back, the better. The complete list of players on the DL include Chad Tracy, Xavier Nady, Jayson Werth, Chien-Ming Wang, and Drew Storen. As you can see, a lot of power hitting and power pitching is not currently available. If those five can return soon, and to form, the Nationals will be a lot better off for the playoff push.
Strasburg Shuts down in September
The Washington Nationals are holding firm in their decision to shutdown ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg after 160 innings. At the rate he's going, that means that he will be shutdown for the season sometime in early September. Strasburg has been the teams savior this entire season. Many times he has stopped a losing streak and kicked off a winning streak by being the fantastic pitcher that he is. If the Nationals stay true to their word and shut him down after 160 innings, their most lethal weapon won't be available for the playoff push or the playoffs. The teams that the Nationals will play after he gets shut down? (In the scheduled order) Mets, Braves, Dodgers, Brewers, Phillies, Cardinals, Phillies.
The Nationals are in prime position to make a huge playoff run. There is more and more buzz around the league about the capabilities of this team. The remaining schedule, the players on the DL, and the Strasburg situation are all aspects of the game that can have a major effect on this team's chances of winning it all.
Grab a seat, Nationals fans, the second half of the season is going to be crazy.
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