The Washington Nationals are .500 as the second half begins for the first time since 2005, their first year in D.C. After a first half that featured gut-wrenching losses, an eight-game win streak, the sudden resignation of a manager and 36 one-run games, they open the second half Friday with a chance to finish with their best record in the nation's capital.
Jason Marquis had arguably the worst outing by a Washington Nationals pitcher all year in his last start, allowing seven runs, six of them earned, in just 1 1/3 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the game, a 10-2 Nationals loss, Marquis was determined to put the start behind him.
Before the Secret Service snipers on the roof of Nationals Park had even a moment to relax Tuesday night, the Nationals were in position to break out against the Chicago Cubs.
Stuck with an injury-stricken squad, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson turned to usual left fielder Laynce Nix before the top of the seventh inning Monday and, in desperate need of a first baseman, asked the towering Texan when the last time he played the position was.
The dam finally broke for the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Home runs had been a rarity for Sean Burnett and Rick Ankiel. For Ankiel, the Washington Nationals outfielder whose season had twice been derailed by injury, the rarity was hitting them. For Burnett, it was giving them up.
The Washington Nationals were without their best player, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, for 58 of their first 72 games. Their No. 5 hitter, first baseman Adam LaRoche, played 43 games and batted .172 with a torn shoulder muscle before having season-ending surgery. Their $126 million offseason acquisition, right fielder Jayson Werth, has 16 fewer RBI than their rookie second baseman, Danny Espinosa.
Of all of the unattractive stats that have marked the Washington Nationals offense this season, one of the most confounding was their inability to produce with runners in scoring position.
Batter after batter, the San Diego Padres walked back to their dugout, bat in hand, shaking their heads. Each time they had threatened Jordan Zimmermann he'd re-establish his dominance over the second-worst offense in the National League with a strikeout.