Nationals developing home-field advantage and opponents notice

First baseman Adam LaRoche talks about it all the time. When he would come in to play the Nationals while with the Diamondbacks, they knew they could beat the Nationals, and they expected to beat the Nationals.

That is not the case anymore.

The Nationals are 5-0 at Nationals Park to start this season and were 50-31 at home last season, second only to the Yankees (51-30).

Since 2008, the Nats have steadily improved at home. In 2008, they were 34-46 at Nationals Park, 33-48 in 2009, 41-40 in 2010 and 44-36 in 2011.

Manager Davey Johnson said it is a combination of many things for his team. First off, they are good and built to play well in D.C. But, of course, it feels familiar, and the Nats had a ton of success here last year.

“Everybody likes to be home,” Johnson said. “We are more comfortable here. Guys like the facility, get along in the clubhouse. It is relaxing.”

But Johnson said really it is about how solid his lineup is, and he believes offensively, it is a step up from 2012. The Nats were 48-33 away from D.C. last season.

“We played good on the road last year,” Johnson continued. “We are set up. We have a good offense. It helps you on the road. It is better than it was last year. We can play good on the road too.

“That can happen over time, it is not something that happens overnight. Good pitching, good defense, good offense.”

Now, other teams are also noticing. Chicago White Sox broadcaster and former All-Star first baseman and right fielder Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson paid a visit to Johnson’s office during pregame and complimented the skipper on his roster.

“It gets around,” Johnson said of how good the Nats are and could be. “Even had the ‘Hawk’ came in and said he liked our ballclub. I thought we were going to talk about golf. He wanted to talk about my club. We are not really a secret.”

Does Nationals Park favor the hitter? Is it a pitcher’s haven?

“I think it is a pretty fair park,” Johnson said. “It is one of the prettiest parks in the league. Our guys enjoy playing here, and we are getting some good fans, so it makes it even better. And it is not as bad as Cincy, I will tell you that.”

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