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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 07/01/2011

Coming up, an ‘important’ Nationals homestand


It’s rare for Ryan Zimmerman to concede one game or series or stretch is more meaningful than any other, but Wednesday evening, he did. The Nationals, starting tonight, will finish the symbolic first half of the season with an 11-game homestand leading into the all-star break, against the Pirates, Cubs and Rockies.

With the Nationals sitting at 40-41, the homestand will color the entire first half. They could head into the all-star break with a winning record and a chance to hang around the periphery of the wild card race a little longer. Or they could make it very hard to play baseball of any special meaning in late July.

Any stretch of 11 games helps define a season, but this upcoming homestand really does feel like it could be a fulcrum for the Nationals' season.

“This homestand is important. I think we have to have a winning homestand,” Zimmerman said after the Nationals’ 1-0 loss. “If we have a winning homestand, we’re over .500 at the break, close to 50 wins. Take three or four days off, and then saddle up. And then after the all-star break, we get to that second part of the season where, hey, we got a shot.”

The four-game series that starts tonight against the Pirates, which includes a straight doubleheader Saturday, will be more of a challenge than Pirates series typically are. Pittsburgh will enter 40-39, trying for their first winning season since 1992. After Sunday, it will be July 4 and either the Nationals or Pirates will be better than .500. How about that?

Even after getting swept by the Angels to finish the actual first half of the season, the Nationals have, by far, their best record after 81 games since 2005. And that’s despite a difficult schedule. This has been mentioned before, but it’s worth repeating that, starting now, the rest of the season sets up well for the Nationals.

The Nationals have played 46 road games, tied with the Twins for the most in the major leagues. So they’ll play 46 of their final 81 games at Nationals Park, where they have gone 22-13 – the sixth-best home record in the majors.

“I’d say we’re far ahead of where anybody thought we’d be at this time – ahead of schedule, I guess you could call it,” Jayson Werth said. “But me personally, I thought this was the type of ball we were going to play from not long after I got here in spring training. I was able to see the talent first hand and see the type of guys we got. We’ve got a lot to look forward to in the second half and years to come with this organization. I’m excited.”

FROM THE POST

Boz says to get used to what you’ve been seeing in the first half: the Natinals are gone, and normal is here.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Indianapolis 3, Syracuse 0: Rick Ankiel went 0 for 3 with a walk, playing after the Nationals had originally planned to give him a day off. Stephen Lombardozzi went 1 for 4. Ross Detwiler allowed no runs in only a two-inning start on no hits and a walk, striking out two.

Harrisburg 6. New Brunswick 0: Bill Rhinehart went 2 for 4 with a home run. Chris Rahl went 3 for 4 with a triple. Erik Arnesen allowed no runs in six innings on four hits and a walk, striking out five.

Potomac 4, Winston-Salem 2: Steven Souza went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Jeff Kobernus went 1 for 4 with a double. Paul Demny allowed one run in seven innings on five hits and no walks, striking out eight.

Hagerstown 8, Lakewood 4: Bryce Harper went 0 for 4 with a walk. He’s 5 for his last 36 with a double, a triple and seven walks, dropping his season slash line to a still-impressive .312/.414/.551. Jason Martinson went 3 for 4 with a double and a walk.

Wilmington 13, Auburn 12: Hendry Jimenez went 3 for 6 with a triple. Bryce Ortega went 3 for 4 with a double and a walk. Caleb Ramsey went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 07/01/2011

 
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