Game #54 Nationals wake-up to find themselves 1/2 game from 1st place!

With the Atlanta Braves losing last night in a rain delayed game that went past midnight in the east, the Nationals woke up today to find themselves just a ½ game from 1st place. Today also marks the 1/3 point in the season for the Washington Nationals at the completion of tonight’s game. The actual record will show 53 games completed until the tie game with the Yankees is resolved in mid-June.

Some would say the Nationals are sitting pretty because the team is getting healthy, and they are rocking and rolling having won 19 of their last 25 games and have reached the 30 win mark already which projects them above the coveted 90 win line of demarcation. If that tie game with the Yankees goes the Nationals way along with a win tonight over the Orioles they will be they will do their part for what they can control for these first 54 games. Based on the current .577 winning percentage the Nationals are on a 93.46 win pace.

The Nationals are almost identically now tracking their 2016 regular season pace if they can win 3 games in a row they will match the 33-22 record and own 1st place because the Nationals will control their own destiny playing the Atlanta Braves on Thursday. At game #55 of 2016, it was the Nationals and Mets who were separated by two games in the standings. The Mets had just come off of their World Series season and were actually in 1st place in the second week of May then the two teams squared off in a June series and the Nationals swept them and never looked back. By early August after the trade deadline, the Nationals moved to a 10.0 game lead in the NL East.

Instead of looking too far ahead to this four-game series in Atlanta, the Nationals need to take care of business in Baltimore and control what they can control. Injuries have been one factor out of the Nationals control, and if there is any good news, the Nationals are on the verge of getting back star players to the line-up. We are talking about Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, and Ryan Madson who could all be back today. Role players like Brian Goodwin and Matt Grace are also close to returning then you have the curious case of Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals “brain trust” will have some no-brainer decisions to make like sending back Adrian Sanchez and Andrew Stevenson plus some front of the bullpen arms, but then they will have some excruciating decisions when Eaton and Zimmerman are ready to return. It’s the cruelest game of musical chairs because there is only has 25 seats and nobody wants to be caught without a spot.

How do you send back rookie Juan Soto who is batting .320 with a .974 OPS? How do you sit Mark Reynolds who is batting .406 and crushing all pitching at a 1.363 OPS? Does Matt Adams take his “Big City” bat to the bench as he has a large sample size OPS of .971 with 12 home runs and some nifty 1st base defense? Do the Nationals put Wilmer Difo back on the bench since they are 24-14 when Difo starts and 6-8 when he does not start? Do you go back to a 5-man bench and a 7-man bullpen?

Do we stick with the best 25 go north? Who from those 25 are your starters? Some would say this is a good problem to have, and it is because the Nationals have some very good depth now.

The Nationals go with Jeremy Hellickson tonight on 2 extra days of rest which he needed to heal the blister on his finger that shortened his last start. Hellickson’s finger was fine in his side session over the weekend. The Orioles start Dylan Bundy who just had a complete game 3-run outing where he threw 121-pitches. He wasn’t going for a no-hitter or a shutout which made it odd to push this oft-injured pitcher so deep in a meaningless game. Bundy has had an up-and-down season pitching to a 4.45 ERA. This would be a good game to stack lefties as Bundy has a poor slash of .293/.369/.491/.861. The Nationals have only seen Bundy once and Daniel Murphy went 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI. Anthony Rendon is the only active Nats player who has a hit off of Bundy.

Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles
Stadium: Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
1st Pitch:  7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN2; MLB App out-of-market
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app

Line-ups subject to change without notice:

  1. Trea Turner SS
  2. Bryce Harper RF
  3. Anthony Rendon 3B
  4. Matt Adams DH
  5. Mark Reynolds 1B
  6. Juan Soto LF
  7. Michael Taylor CF
  8. Wilmer Difo 2B
  9. Pedro Severino C

Jeremy Hellickson RHP

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