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Nationals Still in First Place (Phew!)

Posted By Marien Hornyak On Jul 22 2012 @ 8:15 pm In Washington Nationals | No Comments

[1]This weekend’s four-game series between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves was the most important (and for us fans, stressful) series of the year so far.  With the Nationals going into the series 3 ½ games above the Braves in first place in the NL East, a lot was riding on this series.  If swept, the Nationals would have ended the weekend in second place, a position they have not been in for very long this season.

Friday’s game, well, let’s try and forget about that one.  The Nationals were leading 9-0 after 5 innings and ended up losing 11-10 in 11 innings.  Stephen Strasburg allowed 4 runs in the top of the sixth, and it went downhill from there.  That was a heartbreaking loss, and it put the Braves only 2 ½ games behind the Nationals.  On Saturday, the two teams faced off twice, with a day/night doubleheader.  The first game was won by the Braves 4-0, despite a very good effort by starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (it was only the second time that the Nationals had been shut out this season).  That put the Braves only 1 ½ games behind the Nats, and with the rain coming down and players being tired from the long game the night before, the nightcap was looking iffy for the Nationals.  Plus, they were counting on lefty John Lannan to give them a quality start, but Lannan had not pitched in the Majors yet this year and had been inconsistent in AAA Syracuse.  Gulp! [2]

Well whaddya know – Lannan pitched a heck of a game, and the Nationals took the second game of the doubleheader by a score of 5-2.  Phew!  Tyler Clippard earned his sixteenth save, and all was good with the world (because even if the Nationals lost Sunday’s game, they would still be in first place by the end of the weekend).

Well, Sunday’s game was no disappointment.  The Nationals took that one 9-2, and each starter had at least one hit (the team had 18 hits in all).  Ryan Zimmerman hit two home runs, backup catcher Sandy León had his first two Major League RBIs, and Roger Bernadina continued his hot streak by going 3 for 4.  Oh, what a relief!

[3]The Nationals are now off to New York, where they will face the Mets for three games.  They will be playing without all-star shortstop Ian Desmond (who was just placed on the disabled list due to a tear in the oblique muscle that has been nagging him for over a month), but will soon get Jayson Werth and Chad Tracey back after their rehab assignments in single-A Potomac.

And what about the upcoming trade deadline?  I don’t think the Nationals will do a thing.  They don’t need pitching (they
are now second in the Majors in ERA after being first all season, but are still doing fine); they don’t need hitting (the middle part of the lineup has finally woken up), and they’ve proven that they can remain in first place even when their best hitters are injured (like Zimmerman, who was out for a while with a sore shoulder and Morse, who was out for over two months with a pulled lat
muscle).  This team has proven that they can beat the odds, and because of that (barring a major disaster in the next
two months) they can definitely hang with the big boys.  There are still a LOT of games to play against the Braves and Mets – let’s hope the Nationals can keep up their momentum!

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