Nats survive a minefield of bats

When the Nationals departed on their six-game road trip to Boston and Toronto on June 8, the pitching staff ERA was 2.97, best in baseball. They swept that trip, came home and were swept by the Yankees, won two of three from Tampa Bay, and lost two of three at Baltimore. Including the May series against the Orioles, the Nats survived their 18-game trek through the AL East at 10-8, their best-ever interleague record and a testament to the resilience of this 2012 Washington team.

The Nats left Baltimore with an ERA of 2.95 - the best pitching number in baseball had actually gone down against the mighty AL East. That was truly impressive. But the fun wasn't over yet, as Colorado was next.

In four crazy games at Coors Field, the Nats' bats finally came alive when Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder got medication and Michael Morse reached 100 at-bats.

Washington scored 35 runs on 57 hits, including a Nats-record 21 hits in the 12-5 win on June 26. The Rockies scored 25 runs on 53 hits, including 20 in their 11-10, 11-inning win June 28. Between wild fires and ringing bats, it was a tough week in Denver, but the Nats survived. It was on to Atlanta, where Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez had good starts, and the back end of the bullpen was again brilliant in taking two of three from the Braves. The Nats came home with an ERA of 3.19, still No. 1 in baseball.

Thus, the Nats went 5-5 on a tough road trip and Stephen Strasburg didn't win a game. That tells you something about the rest of the team, and that 25-18 road record is among baseball's best. Win at home, break even or better on the road and you can win a division. The Nats are doing that, and have been doing it right from the first road trip of the season.

Now, six games loom vs. the NL West before the All-Star Break. The Giants have the third-best pitching numbers in the National League behind Washington and Los Angeles, and the Rockies have the same bats they used last week, so this homestand will be very interesting.

Congrats to Stephen, Gio and Ian for making the All-Star team, and maybe Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche make it as well.

Have the Nats arrived with three All-Stars, and maybe more? If not, they're well on the way, and all signs point to a July, August and September to remember. They're doing it the right way with pitching, defense and now a potent offense.

There's a long way to go - 77 games down and 85 left. If baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, the Nats are in great shape. Drew Storen is close, and Jayson Werth is a month away. Name one major league team that will add two players like that in the second half.

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