It is not the most important goal of the minor league system, but when the Nationals get one team into the postseason, it is a good measure of the talent and ability of the players to come together as a unit.
The Nationals did that one better - they had two teams clinch first-half crowns Sunday. Both Single-A squads, the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns and the high Single-A Potomac Nationals won their respective divisions in the first half of the season. This guarantees the Suns and P-Nats berths in the postseason playoffs.
It is also pretty amazing when a minor league team, especially at the Single-A level, wins a division with all the injuries, player changes and turnover to feed the higher level clubs.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris was proud to see both teams clinch first place, Potomac taking the Carolina League first-half title Thursday with an 8-0 win and Hagerstown claiming the South Atlantic League first-half crown Sunday by virtue of Hickory's loss.
"Not that winning is everything, but this was a pretty good day," Harris said. "This is a byproduct of our players playing well and playing as a unit."
Potomac finished the first half of the season with a league-best 42-27 record thanks to a 9-8 win at Frederick on Sunday.
The P-Nats also send left-hander Robbie Ray, right-hander Blake Schwartz, outfielder Billy Burns, and catcher Adrian Nieto to Tuesday's Carolina-California League All-Star Game in San Jose. Nieto was chosen Sunday to replace Keys catcher Zane Chavez (oblique strain).
The Suns (38-29) defeated Lakewood on Sunday for their third straight win. Hickory is 39-31, finish 1/2 game back in the Northern Division.