Nats' most intriguing series in second half (Part 1)

The MLB Draft and All-Star Game festivities are over. Today is the last day without baseball until the end of October.

The Nationals start the second half tomorrow with a six-game midwest road trip against the Cardinals and the Cubs.

As things stand, the Nationals are in last place in the National League East but are on pace to win 65 games this year, a 10-win improvement from 2022.

With the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the new lottery system in the draft preventing tanking across the league, the Nationals cannot pick higher than No. 10 overall in next year’s first round after selecting Dylan Crews with the No. 2 overall pick this year. Not that the ultra-competitive Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez would ever intentionally lose, but that’s part of the reason those rules are in place.

So we’re in for an exciting second half of baseball as the Nationals continue to develop both at the major and minor league levels. Who will stand out over the next 2 ½ months? Will any trades be made before the deadline? Which prospects will be promoted and perhaps make their major league debuts?

That remains to be seen.

For now, let’s take a look at the most intriguing matchups as the Nats finish out the 2023 season in hopes of a better win-loss record. Here are the first five leading up to the end of August. We’ll take a look at five more to finish the season tomorrow.

* July 14-16 at Cardinals
Right out of the break the Nats have an intriguing matchup.

The Cardinals have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this year as they sit in last place in the NL Central. They’re 11 ½ games behind the first-place Reds and three games behind the surprising Pirates.

In the NL standings, they’re only two games better than the Nationals. They did win two of three in D.C. last month.

Can the Redbirds turn their season around? Or will the Nats be able to show they’re just as good if not better than St. Louis’ star-studded roster?

* July 27-30 at Mets
If the Cards aren’t baseball’s most disappointing team, then the Mets certainly are.

With the highest payroll in the sport, the Mets are only 42-48 on the year, thanks to a lot of injuries and some underperforming players.

Entering the second half, the Nats are only six games back from the Mets in the NL East and they’ve already won four of seven matchups this season.

Will the Mets have turned a corner by the end of the month? Or can the Nats effectively end their season right before the trade deadline?

* July 31-Aug. 2 vs. Brewers
The Brewers are only one game behind the Reds in the NL Central entering the second half.

But this series is more interesting because it includes the trade deadline on Aug. 1.

How different will this roster look for the finale on Aug. 2? Will the Nationals part ways with Lane Thomas, Jeimer Candelario, Kyle Finnegan or Hunter Harvey? And if so, who do they get back in return?

* Aug. 4-10 at Reds and Phillies
This could be a telling road trip for the Nationals.

The first-place Reds just swept a four-game series at Nats Park at the beginning of the month. Right before that, the Nationals took two of three from the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Can the Nats get revenge on Elly De La Cruz’s crew and hang for a four-game fight in Philly?

* Aug. 18-20 vs. Phillies
This three-game homestand is highlighted by the Little League Classic as the finale on Aug. 20 in Williamsport, Pa.

It’s the first time the Nats have participated in the Little League Classic and it’s currently their only scheduled nationally televised game of the second half (“Sunday Night Baseball” on ESPN).

Win or lose, it should be a great experience for both teams and all of the Little Leaguers.

Check back tomorrow morning for five more intriguing matchups!

Nats' most intriguing series in second half (Part ...
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