Looking ahead to the second half

If the Nationals are going to win the World Series, they'll have to take at least one game on the road.

Getting a little ahead of ourselves here? Yup. But hey, there's nothing else going on in the sports world today.

The American League representative in the World Series will hold home field advantage this year, after the AL All-Star squad earned a 5-3 win in last night's Midsummer Classic.

The last five World Series champions have all held home field advantage. Only one of those times was a Game 7 needed, but still, home field advantage most certainly holds value.

And put me on the list of people who believe that a meaningless game in July is no way to determine something that can have a legitimate impact on who wins the Fall Classic.

On a Nationals note, Tyler Clippard, the lone Nats representative in the All-Star Game this year, came on with two on and one out in the fifth. Clippard worked two-thirds of an inning, retiring Astros second baseman Jose Altuve on a sacrifice fly and getting Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera to fly out to center.

The right-hander will now enjoy today off before Nats players convene at Nationals Park tomorrow for a workout. They'll then get ready to jump back into the flow on Friday, when the Brewers come to town for a three-game set that will kick off the second half.

The Nats have 69 games remaining this season - 41 against teams that currently have losing records and 28 against teams with winning records.

Of those 41 games against teams with losing records, a whopping 34 are against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies. Yes, division games will be plentiful and crucial down the stretch.

The Braves, for what it's worth, have 35 games remaining against teams with losing records, and 32 against teams with winning records.

Here are the Nats' non-division opponents the rest of the way out: Brewers, Rockies, Reds, Orioles, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mariners and Dodgers.

And here are the Braves' remaining non-division opponents: Padres, Dodgers, Padres, Mariners, Dodgers, A's, Pirates, Reds, Rangers and Pirates.

The top two teams in the NL East still will play each other nine more times, with six coming at Turner Field and three in D.C.

If you're into this sort of thing, BaseballProspectus has the Nats' odds of making the postseason at 80.7 percent and their odds of winning the NL East at 64.2 percent. They've set themselves up for a shot at the postseason with a solid first half, and now it's time to turn things into high gear and make a run at this thing.

"That's what you play for," said Jayson Werth, who has been a part of plenty of second-half pushes. "You set yourself up in the first half to give yourself a chance in the second, so I think we've done that. We'll see what we've got coming down the stretch and see what we're made of, I guess. It'll be fun."

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