The Nationals won last night. The Braves didn’t.
As a result, the Nats find themselves alone in first place in the National League East as of this morning, a game up on Atlanta with two games in hand.
The Nats have now won eight of their last 10. They’ve won 12 of their last 17. And they’re continuing to build some momentum as the All-Star break approaches.
“That’s where we want to be,” Jayson Werth said, after slugging his ninth homer of the season in last night’s 6-2 Nationals win over the O’s. “We’ve got a long way to go. I like our club. I like where we’re at right now. We just need to keep rolling.
“We’ve got a few more games to go until the break. It would be nice to go into the break in first place, to come back from the break and roll. We’ve got the second half coming, and I think we’ve got a good team. I like the way we could play in the second half.”
Four games separate the Nats from the break, which allows the players and coaches (and reporters) four days of rest and relaxation nearly three-fifths of the way into the season. It’s a time to recharge the batteries, regroup and come back ready to roll in the “second half”.
Ideally, the Nats would love to build up this lead over the Braves these next few days, using this final game against the O’s and the three games in Philadelphia over the weekend to create some separation between themselves and their top division rival.
They’ll certainly aim to do that, but aren’t putting too much emphasis on holding a multi-game lead at the break and having some breathing room over Atlanta.
“I mean, it’s meaningful, but it’s not that meaningful,” Werth said. “I’ve always said unless you’re 10 games up going into September, it really doesn’t matter. You win your division in the second half. We’re almost there.”
For Matt Williams, the focus continues to be on the day-to-day. He keeps an eye on the Braves, for sure, and is aware of where the Nats stand in relation to the rest of their division opponents. But it is still early July, and there are plenty of games left. And for Williams, the focus will continue to be on how his team can win that day’s ballgame.
“I’m not peaking around any corners, and neither are these guys,” Williams said. “We have to play tomorrow against a very difficult team, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on. We can control our game and that’s it. I’m not worried about that other than we need to play well tomorrow.”