The second half of the Nationals’ season begins Friday, and their strong finish to the first half has many bullish about their future. After a sluggish start, the Nationals won 17 games in June, tied for the second-most in baseball, and are 7-4 in July. They are 51-42 and tied with the Atlanta Braves for first place atop the NL East with 69 games left.
Thanks to their improved play, oddsmakers have picked the Nationals among the favorites in both the National League and in baseball overall. According to the popular betting site Bovada.lv, the Nationals are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the fifth best odds (10 to 1) to win the World Series. The Oakland Athletics, with the best record in baseball, are 5 to 1 World Series favorites, followed by the Detroit Tigers (6 to 1), Los Angeles Dodgers (6 to 1) and Los Angeles Angels (9 to 1).
Other playoff projections also have the Nationals claiming the NL East crown. According to FanGraphs.com, the Nationals are projected to win just under 91 games and have 76.4 percent odds of making the playoffs, the second-highest of any NL team. Their odds of winning the NL East are 60.3 percent, compared to the Braves’ 30.8 percent. This, however, could change with a bad week or two.
Although the Nationals are expected to make a second-half push thanks to a healthy roster, their schedule will prove challenging at times. The Nationals return from the all-star break to face the Milwaukee Brewers and struggling Colorado Rockies. They finish the month against the improved-but-injured Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins.
Over the final two months, a division-heavy schedule is sprinkled with tough series against the Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and Dodgers. In that span, the Nationals will face the Braves nine times, six in Atlanta.
The Nationals finished the first half confident in their play and happy to be healthy. The next two and a half months will prove whether it will translate onto the field.
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FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
INT All-Stars 7, PCL All-Stars 3: Steven Souza Jr. went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a walk. Jhonatan Solano hit a two-run home run. Aaron Laffey fired a scoreless fourth inning.
West All-Stars 5, East All-Stars 2: Michael A. Taylor went 1 for 3 with an RBI and a walk. Kevin Keyes went 0 for 1. Colin Bates allowed one run and struck out two.
Wilmington 6, Potomac 2: Blake Schwartz allowed four runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings. Ronald Pena allowed two more runs. Tony Renda and Estarlin Martinez each drove in a run.
West Virginia 6, Hagerstown 1: Hector Silvestre allowed three runs on seven hits over five innings. Andrew Copper gave up three more. Drew Ward went 2 for 3. John Wooten drove in the lone run.
Auburn 8, Hudson Valley 2: Reynaldo Lopez struck out five and walked three over 3 1/3 innings. Mario Sanchez and Drew Van Orden combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Raudy Read went 3 for 4 with two RBI. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz went 2 for 4 with two RBI. Matthew Page and Wilman Rodriguez each had two hits, too.