WASHINGTON — With 52 wins, the Washington Nationals have more victories than all but four MLB teams, and possess the largest division lead, at 9.5 games, in the National League.
This is perhaps the team’s biggest accomplishment of the first half, especially considering the amount of talent on the team’s disabled list. That doesn’t mean that it meets the expectations of manager Dusty Baker.
“You always want more than you have as a manager,” Baker told the media on Sunday. “But these guys gave us every ounce of energy that they had. That’ll take its toll on you.”
Baker commended the team on building its lead despite playing 46 games in the last 48 days, one of the cruelest stretches of any team’s schedule this MLB season.
“I asked them to play through the break and not to the break, and that’s what they did…We used everybody. Everybody chipped in. I know it’s corny, but it was a real team effort.”
By building a runaway lead in the East, the Nationals can now approach things differently after the All-Star break. While the emphasis will remain on winning, health will likely become an even greater focus.
“If you ever have a chance to put teams away early, you want to take advantage of that,” reserve player Chris Heisey told the MASN broadcast team on Sunday. “I think, as a ballclub, we feel like we could even have a bigger lead. Anytime you can head into the break, you take it, and hopefully, you can continue to put the pressure on and keep winning ball games.
“As you do that, down the stretch, hopefully, you get some guys some rest when they games aren’t so important when you have things locked up, and that’s the goal.”
At this point, only the Houston Astros in the American League Central boast a larger division lead, with a whopping 16.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers.