Hanging in and about to get a few "shots in the arm"

I wrote just the other day about the parity in the National League East, but even since then, the layout in the division has gotten more interesting.

All five NL East teams now have above-.500 records. Only 1 1/2 games separate first place from last place.

That's parity, folks.

The Nationals could have left Philadelphia atop the division had they been able to close out their series with the Phillies on a positive note. Instead, yesterday's 1-0 loss finished off a 3-2 road trip and left the Nats half a game back of the Braves, who went 0-6 on their recent homestand.

Gio Gonzalez was excellent yesterday, but the bats went quiet against Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez, allowing the home team to take the rubber game of the three-game set.

You can choose to take the glass-half-empty view, if you'd like, noting that the Nats missed an opportunity to finish off a strong road trip against less-than-stellar competition. Or, you can take the glass-half-full vantage point, noting that the Nats are still three games over .500 and just a half-game back of Atlanta despite the lengthy list of injuries that they've needed to deal with.

You can probably guess which angle the guys in the Nationals clubhouse are taking.

"I feel like we're in a great position just for the fact that every one of these guys in here battles, fights," Kevin Frandsen said. "And nothing's ever over. It's pretty awesome to watch, be a part of. ... I feel like that's the character of this team.

"For us to be where we are right now with all those injuries, I say it's even better. Because when those guys start coming back, it's almost like a trade deadline for all of us. We're going to get more and more shots in the arm. We can't be looking forward to that, but we can control what we're doing right now and keeping in a position to stay in it. When those guys come in, hopefully we'll take off."

The good news is, the injured guys that the Nats have been missing will slowly start to return in the coming days.

Outfielder Scott Hairston could be activated from the disabled as soon as today, after missing the last few weeks with an oblique strain. Hairston has played at Triple-A Syracuse the last three days, going 1-for-10 with a double and two walks, and we might see him back on the Nats' 25-man roster by gametime tonight.

Catcher Wilson Ramos might not be too far behind him. Ramos started a rehab assignment yesterday at low Single-A Hagerstown, and including the two games he played at extended spring training, the Nats' opening day cleanup hitter now has three homers in three games as he tries to get back into playing form.

Ramos will join Double-A Harrisburg to continue his rehab tonight, then could be back with the Nats within days.

Right-hander Doug Fister will make his long-awaited Nats debut Friday against the Athletics, after missing the first handful of weeks with a strained lat muscle. The Nats are thrilled to get the tall righty back and see his sinker in action.

Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper are still a ways off from returning from their respective thumb injuries, but this team is slowly starting to get healthier. And the Nats are plenty pleased that the guys coming off the DL will return to a team that's still just half a game out of first place.

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