Seeing changes in the second half

What a weekend it was for Roger Bernadina.

The former Nationals outfielder, now with the Phillies, went 2-for-8 with a home run and a double in the Phillies’ 18-inning marathon win on Saturday, and then had another double, two RBIs and two really impressive defensive plays yesterday.

If you didn’t happen to see Bernadina’s glovework from yesterday afternoon, here you go.

I wonder if they do the Shark Chomp in Philadelphia? Sorry, still too soon to ask that question?

Over the last two days, Bernadina got 13 plate appearances. Bernadina had 13 plate appearances over his last 27 days with the Nats before being released last Monday.

Bernadina clearly wasn’t a major factor on a day-to-day basis for the Nats this season. They have a set starting outfield with two left-handed-hitters in that trio, and Bernadina just wasn’t performing when given an opportunity this year. The Phillies, on the other hand, have a major need in the outfield and can afford to see whether one of the more impressive athletes in the league can get on track and turn the potential into actual substance.

Despite the three extra-base hits over the weekend, Bernadina is still just 3-for-17 (.176) in the very small sample size since signing with the Phillies. But he’ll probably get a pretty good chance to show what he can do over the next four-plus weeks, and the Nats will see it in person up in Philadelphia next week.

The Nats have now played 35 games since the All-Star break, and in that time, we’ve started to see the offense heat up quite a bit.

Their team batting average since the break is .265, which ranks sixth-best in the majors. Their on-base percentage has risen to .329 (eighth-best), while their team slugging percentage is .414 (fourth-best). Compare that to the Nats’ .241/.301/.385 line before the break, and you can see the progress.

Jayson Werth is on another planet lately, posting a ridiculous .388/.486/.655 slash line with nine homers since the break. Steve Lombardozzi has quietly gotten hot, putting up a .321/.345/.453 line in his 53 at-bats. Bryce Harper has turned things around after a quiet stretch mid-way through the season, and is batting .291/.384/.496 with five homers in his 34 games played in the second half.

Then there’s Denard Span, whose on-base percentage is still pretty low since the break (.319), but has seen his other numbers (.289 batting average, .415 slugging, three home runs) spike. Span is out-slugging Ryan Zimmerman by 12 points since the break.

Pitching-wise, things have shifted, as well. Dan Haren is now the starter that’s dominating, going 4-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in the second half. Stephen Strasburg has just a 1-2 record since the break but sports a 3.02 ERA. In relief, Tanner Roark has come on strong (1.10 ERA over 16 1/3 innings), and Tyler Clippard (2.04 ERA, 0.62 WHIP) and Craig Stammen (2.25 ERA, no home runs in 20 innings) have also come up big.

A few guys have unexpectedly dropped off during this stretch; Gio Gonzalez is winless since the break and has a 5.70 ERA, Jordan Zimmermann has a 5.87 ERA and has allowed a team-high seven homers and Rafael Soriano sports an ugly 7.98 ERA with a 1.64 WHIP in his 16 second-half appearances.

There are certainly still some issues with the Nats, but they’re no longer the same issues that plagued them earlier in the season. The offense has improved, the back-end of the bullpen has dropped off, and the starters who were dominating earlier this season have hit a rough patch.

They’re averaging 0.58 more runs per game since the break than they were before it, however, a large jump that’s helping to get things going in the right direction.

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