Despite first-half success, Nats still feel best is yet to come

Hope everyone enjoyed their Fourth of July festivities yesterday, even if the fireworks show you witnessed wasn’t nearly as robust as the one that happened in San Diego.

I like San Diego’s style on this one. Why wait and save the “grand finale” for the end of a 15-20 minute show? Why not just make it the entire show?

Today is now July 5, which means it’s the last day for fans to cast their votes to determine who will earn the final spot on the two All-Star Game rosters.

With a bit more than six hours remaining in the voting window, Bryce Harper still trails Cardinals third baseman David Freese in the National League Final Vote.

Voting ends this afternoon at 4 p.m.

I think those of us that saw the way this Nationals team was set up back in spring training realized that it had the potential to make a postseason run this year. I’m not sure as many of us expected the Nats to be atop the National League East for nearly the entire first half of the season.

laroche high five dug out colorado sidebar.jpgThe guys donning the Nationals jerseys every day sure did, though. And they’re happy to see their confidence rewarded so far.

“You look back at the beginning of the year, and we all talked about it,” Michael Morse said. “And now, the same people that asked the questions are coming back, and you give them the, ‘I told you,’ kind of thing.

“There’s a lot of baseball left. What’s good about this team is we really don’t know how good this team can be. I think that’s what makes us so great: The sky’s the limit.”

A couple of weeks ago, we heard a number of guys in the Nats’ clubhouse say that even though they’d been playing solid baseball and held the lead in the NL East, they didn’t feel the team had even started really hitting its stride yet.

The Nats might have found that stride in Colorado, when this recent power surge began. The bats are on fire right now, some under-supported starting pitchers are starting to rack up the wins and the bullpen continues to perform at a high level.

And yet, there’s still a lot of firepower yet to return. Jayson Werth should be back sometime in early August after missing much of the season with a broken wrist, while Drew Storen and Chad Tracy expect to return right after the All-Star break.

Tracy went 0-for-3 in his first rehab game last night for Single-A Potomac, but added a sacrifice fly and a walk. Storen should begin his rehab assignment for Potomac tonight.

There was a time not too long ago when two straight Nationals wins over a division-leading team would have been a “statement.” Now, not only is it not a statement, but it doesn’t even cause much commotion in the Nationals’ clubhouse.

The Nats are feeling pretty darn good about themselves with just four games until the All-Star break, and despite being a whopping 15 games above .500 and holding a healthy 4 1/2 game lead in the division, they still believe their best baseball is yet to come.

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