The Washington Times - August 3, 2009, 11:39PM

This season has long been beyond repair for the Nationals, who would need a near-miracle to avoid 100 losses at this point. (Even with tonight’s 8-4 win over the Pirates, they still need to go 29-27 the rest of the way to avoid triple digit losses).

But make no mistake, this team has played mostly respectable baseball under Jim Riggleman. Since he took over at the All-Star break, they’ve gone 8-10. Throw out the five-game losing streak that opened his tenure as interim manager, and they’ve now won eight of their last 13.


They’ve also managed to either win or split their last four series, taking two of three from the Mets and Padres and then going 2-2 against the Brewers and Pirates. (There was also that one loss to the Cardinals in a makeup game.)

The cynic would argue that the Nats have done this against some of the worst competition in the National League. And that’s true. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and where better than against weak competition?

“I feel like for the most part we have won the games that we should win,” Riggleman said. “And the games we’ve lost, we got beat. We didn’t give the games away. I’ve been in that situation before, where you say: ‘I can’t believe we gave the game away.’ But I feel pretty much that we’ve won the ones that we should win, and we haven’t given away too many lately. I’m happy with the ballclub.”

The real challenge will come over the next three days, with the Marlins coming to D.C. For those who don’t know, the Nats are 0-9 against Florida this season, 3-23 over the last two seasons.