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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 06/23/2011

The Nationals are looking past .500


The Nationals are not accustomed to being .500 at this point in the season, so how are they supposed to know what should come next? A few Nationals admitted they were aware that a win last night would get them back to .500. Their next benchmark, they’re not sure about.

“We got to get together as a team and see what that is,” last night’s winner John Lannan said. “I’m pretty sure in the next couple days, we’ll talk about it. I know no one is satisfied. No one here is satisfied with being a .500 ball club. Just push forward and see what our next goal is.”

The Nationals, really, are hardly any different this morning than they were before last night. “The reality of it is, it’s one game better than we were yesterday,” Manager Jim Riggleman. “When you’ve been as far down as we have, it’s nice to get there, certainly. I know it’s kind of what we were striving for. Now we’ve got to try to push forward.”

Throughout the clubhouse, players downplayed the importance of reaching .500 as a necessary stepping-stone rather than a celebratory signpost. They had to reach .500 before they could become a winning team, and that’s all.


“We just got to keep winning,” reliever Sean Burnett said. “We know what we’re capable of. No that we’re .500, we’re feeling better about ourselves. There’s more confidence when you walk in the clubhouse. It’s fun to come to the ballpark. We feel like we’re going to go into every game and win. We’re going to play 27 outs, and I think other teams are realizing it’s going to be a grind. If you look at the good teams, they play a full nine innings. And I think we’re starting to.”

The Nationals’ record at this point in the season has already made surpassing last year’s record a likelihood. To win 70 games, one more than last year, the Nationals would only need to go 33-55, which would be disastrous. To win 74 games, which would be their second-best total, they only need to go 37-51.

No matter what happens, the Nationals will have been .500 on June 22. In their previous five seasons, they did not come close. Here’s the final day the Nationals were .500 for each year, with their last .500 record:

2006: April 5 (1-1)

2007: Never (0-0)

2008: April 5 (3-3)

2009: Never (0-0)

2010: May 31 (26-26)

The Nationals can, and should, say they’re striving for something better than a .500 record. They want to be a winning team, but given their past, their current place means something. For the moment, anyway, they can settle for not being a losing team.

FROM THE POST

Behind another great start from John Lannan, the Nationals beat the Mariners 2-1 and reached .500 for the latest point in a season since 2005.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 12, Gwinnett 4: Jesus Valdez went 5 for 6 with two home runs. Corey Brown went 2 for 4 with a double, a homer and two walks. Tom Milone allowed three earned runs in six innings on five hits and no walks, striking out seven. Making a rehab appearance, Chad Gaudin allowed no runs in two innings on two hits and no walks, striking out one.

Harrisburg 4, Richmond 2: Alex Valdez went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk. Tanner Roark allowed three runs in 6 1/3 on five hits and two walks, striking out two.

Potomac and Hagerstown were on the final day of their all-star breaks.

Auburn 5, State College 0: Auburn pitched its second straight shutout. Ryan Demmin allowed no runs in five innings on two hits and two walks, striking out three. Travis Henke pitched 2 2/3 scoreless relief innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 06/23/2011

 
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