By Rich Dubroff
It’s the mathematical halfway point of the season, and while the conventional midway break doesn’t occur for another week, the Nationals’ first half seems to be a success.
With 45 wins and a host of visits to the disabled list by key players, the Nationals should be in good shape for the last three months of the season.
They’ve used 40 players in 81 games. Last year, it took them a full season to employ 40, and some of those unexpected players have performed much better than expected.
Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are on the disabled list, and Stephen Strasburg, who left Saturday’s game with tightness in his left side, could rejoin them.
Tyler Moore, Clint Robinson and Michael A. Taylor all played important parts offensively in the two wins against San Francisco this weekend.
“It’s not ideal. It’s not the way we planned it to have so many guys out, but it gives opportunities to Tyler and Clint, Michael to get in there and get consistent at-bats, the more they do the better timing they have, and the better they can be,” manager Matt Williams said
A year ago, 13 games were started by pitchers who weren’t in the Nationals’ primary starting five. This year, it’s already been 11, and if Strasburg’s injury sends him back to the DL, it could be more.
Still, the Nationals wake up Sunday with a 4 ½ game lead in the National League East, their largest of the season.
“I think it just shows how deep we are in the minor leagues and how good our scouting has been, how good our pitching has been. Max [Scherzer] has so big for us this year, going out there and throwing 0’s every day,” Harper said.
Harper also mentioned Strasburg, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Joe Ross, who struck out 21 and walked just two in his three starts.
Ross could again fill in for Strasburg. So could Tanner Roark, who pitched creditably when Strasburg left Saturday’s game after four innings.
“Guys are stepping up. It's fun to watch and it gives life to everyone else to see guys thriving and doing well, just doing our thing and having fun,” Roark said.
Drew Storen is enjoying a renaissance as the closer, and Matt Thornton has been excellent as the eighth inning man.
“Give a lot of credit to our bullpen, the young guys going out there and doing what they’ve been doing. It shows you how deep we are and kind of makes you excited for October and beyond that, so we’re excited, and we’ve still got a couple of more games this half and we want to come back stronger,” Harper said.
With his home run on Saturday, Harper is on pace for 50 homers and 120 RBIs, Scherzer for 18 wins.
Six losses in their first eight games, well, the Nationals are way past that. They hope Rendon, Werth and Zimmerman are all back for most of the second half.
“We started the year off…just kind of bad. We had a lot of expectations. Just want to flush all that stuff out and it really doesn’t matter,” Moore said.
“Obviously we want those guys back with injuries, but we can’t really use that as an excuse. I think the bench has done a decent job of coming in and stepping in for those guys. We want those guys back as soon as possible, but if not, we’re going to keep rolling.”