Reaction: Washington Nationals off to a quick start in second half

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Jul 16, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates with first baseman Clint Robinson (25) after the final out against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 16, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates with first baseman Clint Robinson (25) after the final out against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /
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With last night’s win against the Pirates, the Washington Nationals are now 20 games over .500 — and they’re off to a great start to the second half.

The Washington Nationals ended the first half of the season on a high note. They took three out of four from the Mets and went into the All-Star break with a six-game lead over New York in the division. Nevertheless, it was imperative for the Nationals to get off to a hot start in the second half.

A good start would show that the Nationals weren’t just a first-half fluke, and that they could keep their first half momentum going. And in the first two games of the second half, that’s exactly what the Nationals have done.

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The Nats have dominated in their first two games against the Pirates. In every aspect of the game, the Nationals have picked up exactly where they left off at the end of the first half. And, of course, they’ve done it all with their best player, Daniel Murphy, out of the lineup.

The Nationals owe their all-important quick start to the same things that got them this far in the first half: stellar starting pitching, perfect defense and timely hitting.

Friday night it was Stephen Strasburg who propelled the Nats to victory with his 13th win of the season. Last night it was Tanner Roark. Both pitchers combined to allow one run over 16 brilliant innings. The offense did its part two, scoring five runs on Friday and six runs last night.

What we’ve seen over the last couple of days is not surprising — it’s what we’ve been seeing all year from the Nationals. While there’s still a long way to go this season, the Nationals will soon begin to reap the rewards of their phenomenal play on the field.

With one more game to go against the Pirates, the Nats have already stretched their lead in the NL East to seven games and they sit a season-high 20 games over .500. They’ll look to keep their hot start to the second half going this afternoon, when they have a chance to sweep the Pirates.

Next: Nationals: Roark Dominates Pirates In Shutout Win

And fortunately for the Nationals, Max Scherzer is on the mound — yet another valuable pitching weapon in an arsenal full of them. The Nats had a phenomenal first half and they’re off to a good start in the second half. If they can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think they’ll be slowing down any time soon.

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