A Mattheus update plus Johnson's outlook on the second half

The Nationals have 11 home games in the next 10 days, a lengthy homestand coming out of the All-Star break and a chance to get things going in the right direction after playing a disappointing first half of the season.

Davey Johnson's club has gone 27-18 (.600) at home this season, leading you to believe the Nats will have a bit of an edge over the next week and a half. But Johnson doesn't necessarily see things that way.

In his mind, the Nats just need to play better, and if they do, it won't matter where the games are held.

"We're certainly capable of pitching better, hitting better, and I think everybody's kind of primed and looking forward to the challenge of doing that," Johnson said. "If you're doing the things we're capable of doing, it doesn't matter to me whether we're home or on the road. You'll win ballgames. That's the challenge we've got in front of us. And certainly, what have we got, 11 games here? We need to play good here, we need to play good all the way, not just this coming homestand. But I think guys feel pretty good about themselves.

"I feel we're in a good spot. We have a good opportunity."

Johnson could get reliever Ryan Mattheus back in the not-too-distant future, with the right-hander now having advanced to Double-A Harrisburg in his rehab assignment.

Mattheus, who is working back from a broken right hand, pitched two innings for Harrisburg on Tuesday, allowing one run on three hits with two walks. The numbers aren't pretty, but results don't matter much at this point for Mattheus, as it's more about how his hand feels and where his arm strength is at.

"He's had a couple of outings, but I would say his velocity is getting about where it (was)," Johnson said. "He's going to be overthrowing. But he needs to have probably four more outings, I would think, before he's where he needs to be."

Mattheus will return to a bullpen that's much more settled now than it was when he suffered the injury back in mid-May. Left-handers Ian Krol and Fernando Abad have been tremendous and have given the Nats' bullpen better balance, and there doesn't seem to be a clear candidate to be dropped from the 25-man roster in order to get Mattheus back with the major league club.

Johnson was asked whether the roster decision will be a tough one when Mattheus is ready to return, but he chose to avoid the question.

"I don't have to address that issue right now," Johnson said. "A week, 10 days, two weeks - there's no telling what might happen."

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