There have been a few dark spots, but the Nats season has generally been a pleasant surprise for the team and fans alike.Â Few expected this team to be .500, let alone without its star for six weeks, one big free agent signing out for the year, and another in one of the biggest slumps of his career.
Without a big star, the Nats have used team baseball to stay alive in a tight division.Â They sit in fourth in the NL East, just a half game out of third. Rookies have stepped up, and a much tighter defense has helped send the Nats to success while being last in the MLB in batting average.
Here we are, at the halfway point in the season.Â The team has a completely different look than when it started. Adam LaRoche is out. Jim Riggleman is out. Roger Bernadina is in, and has become one of the most valuable players on the roster.Â In a game filled with peaks and valleys, we take a look at what the Nats have been through so far.
Eight Game Winning Streak: Should the Nationals finish .500 or better, this streak will likely be the reason why.Â Not only did it launch the team from the basement of the NL East, but it showed this team what they could do.Â It showed them that they didn’t have to be losers all the time, that they had the talent to be real competitors in the league.Â The learned how to win during that week and a half, and hopefully that’s something that they can carry throughout the rest of the year.
The Rookies: Perhaps the strongest part of the Nats this season has been the emergence of their youth.Â Danny Espinosa leads rookies in essentially every category, leads the NL second basemen and is in the top 3-4 in his position in the entire league.Â Wilson Ramos has matured into a great all-around player, being consistent at the bat and defensively.Â He has a very respectable record catching runners trying to steal, especially for such a young player.Â In a position where poise and maturity is crucial, Ramos has blossomed.Â Then there is Drew Storen, who took over the job as closer.Â His pitches continue to elude the experienced batters in the league, and with a one-run lead in the ninth, you know who is about to take the mound.
Jordan Zimmermann: Everyone was devastated last year when Stephen Strasburg was injured.Â It felt like the Nats were just starting to gain some momentum and juice before the phenom was yanked out from underneath the franchise.Â What was overshadowed in this pity party was that Jordan Zimmermann was set to return.Â His presence this year has been one of the best surprises of the year.Â His year has included a start with a career best 11 strikeouts, and the only disappointment in him is that we won’t get to see him all year.Â He is on an inning limit while he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery after missing all of last year.
Offensive Offense: The Nats have had a wagon load of troubles offensively. They have somehow managed to end the first half .500, in fourth place in the division, with the lowest batting average in the league.Â They somehow squeeze out wins, and even when they don’t win they are very close.Â They have played more one-run games than any other team in the league.Â If they want to really make a push for a wild card spot, they will have to find a way to crawl out of this hole.
General Hospital: Despite overall health, the Nats have had injuries to key players change the team already.Â They came into the season without Strasburg.Â Then, just a month into the season, they lost their star and franchise player in Ryan Zimmerman.Â He has since recovered and returned to the lineup with great results.Â Big offseason acquisition Adam LaRoche will also be out for (likely) the season with a shoulder injury.Â There is also wide speculation that more about Jayson Werth is ailing than just his bat.Â The Nats have been able to stay above water with these injuries, and replacements have filled in rather nicely, but it’s hard to deny they are missing some of their wounded.
Riggleman Saga: This was the one and only truly ugly part of the Nats season.Â In a complete surprise, the Nats manager quit in the middle of the team’s winning streak.Â After a 1-0 walk-off victory that was supposed to be a celebration, Jim Riggleman resigned.Â The reasons that went into it were more hurtful and hubris.Â He claimed that operating on a one-year contract was hurting his authority with the players and demanded the team pick up his option.Â He did this with the team still in fourth place and below .500, not exactly a ringing endorsement to extend him.Â When this wasn’t immediately guaranteed, he walked out.Â Never mind that there are plenty of managers not extended passed this year, including Tony LaRussa.Â Then he went out and got hammered in Bethesda. Winner.
Through the good and the bad, the Nats have made it through the first three and a half months of the season. At the end of the All-Star Break, we will take a look at what the Nats will have to do in order to make a push.
What are some of your best memories of the season so far? Some of the worst? Please share in the comments below!