The second half of the Major League Baseball has already began in more ways than one. The 81 game mark was passed a couple of weeks ago, and each team has played one series since finishing the all-star break. However, the future for the Washington Nationals and every other MLB team hangs in the balance as division races are tight and the trade deadline is upcoming.
Washington currently holds the best record in the National League, but they only hold the lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East by a couple of percentage points. To win the race to the finish, the Nationals will need more production from Bryce Harper, and better pitching from top of the rotation starters Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.
Harper has not had a chance to make a great impact on the lineup so far, as he spent a lengthy stent on the disabled list. After going 6 for his first 40 after returning, Harper has shown strides at the plate since the All-Star break.
In this weekend’s series against the Milwaukee Brewers Harper went 5 for 10, with a home run and a double. This recent shift to success may be in part to a change in stance. Harper is now standing taller in his approach, a stance that hitting coach Rick Schu refers to as “stack and jack”.
If Harper’s numbers can begin to resemble his talent, I believe that Nationals will win the division and be a World Series contender. Harper was the missing piece from the Nats’ lineup for a couple of months, his return to normal production can only result in Washington winning more games.
The Nationals have one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball, with the only underachievers being presumed staff number 1 and 2 Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Strasburg leads the National League with 158 strikeouts, but his 3.55 ERA and 7-7 record leave something to be desired.
Gonzalez’ season has been hindered by injuries, and a return to full health could be the cure to his inconsistency. He currently possesses a 3.76 ERA, and 6-5 record. To better his numbers Gonzalez must improve his fastball command.
With the Nationals currently in a tie for first place but still having much room for improvement, I predict them to win the NL East. However, a postseason series with the Atlanta Braves may be looming, as both teams are fighting for a spot in October. To make a strong impact in the postseason, the Nats must conquer their woes against the NL’s top teams.