On to Philly

The first half of the Nationals' season will end in Philadelphia, with three games against the Phillies serving as the only separation between the Nats and the All-Star break.

As of now, Jordan Zimmermann is still the only Nats player heading to Minneapolis nearly next week for the Midsummer Classic. Anthony Rendon came in fourth place in the National League Final Vote competition, the league announced yesterday, with Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs taking the final spot on the NL roster.

It's possible Rendon could end up being selected as a last-minute injury replacement, but as of now, it looks like he'll be spending his All-Star break back in his native Houston, which is fine by him.

Rendon didn't enjoy the Final Vote process, where all eyes were on him and teammates and coaches were campaigning for him throughout the last week. It just isn't Rendon's style. Teammates believed that deep down, Rendon did want to earn an All-Star Game appearance, he just didn't like receiving more attention than the other players in the clubhouse, especially those with more service time.

But he'll gladly take the days off back home to rest up for the second half.

These three games in Philly provide an opportunity for the Nats to roll into the break riding some momentum.

The Phillies sit at the bottom of the NL East with a 41-51 record, nine games back of the Nats and Braves, who are tied atop the division.

Ryne Sandberg's squad is just 18-27 at home and has a minus-42 run differential on the season. They're hitting .238 as a team (third-worst in the NL), have a .663 OPS (second-worst in the NL) and have a 3.85 team ERA (fourth-worst in the NL).

There might be some roster changes coming in Philly soon, with big-name players possibly being shipped out. This isn't a bad time to catch this squad, even if they did just pick up a four-game sweep of the slumping Brewers.

The Nats, on the other hand, have been heating up these last handful of weeks, and could polish off a solid first half with a nice showing in the City of Brotherly Love. Given the number of injuries this team has dealt with so far, and the significance of those losses, going into the break with at least a share of the division lead would probably be considered an accomplishment.

While the Nats are in Philly, the Braves get the Cubs for three games. We'll see how things play out in the final days before we all get the break to recharge our batteries and prepare for the final stretch.

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