Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/9/12

The Nationals were arguably baseball's biggest surprise in the first half of the season. Now, the big

question is if they can keep it up in the homestretch.

They ended the first half with a 49-34 record after the Rockies pushed across a run in the ninth to beat

the Nats, 4-3, on Sunday. The Nationals go into the All-Star break with a four-game lead over the Braves in

the National League East.

"It was a great first half," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "I'm proud of the guys."

Much of what happens with the Nationals in the second half could depend upon the team's decision about

how they will treat right-hander Stephen Strasburg.

Since this is his first full season back after arm surgery, the Nationals have mentioned several times

that they want to limit his innings to about 160-170 this season.

That would likely end his season at some point in late August or early September. They want Strasburg

for the long haul and feel this is the safest way to handle things. They did this with right-hander Jordan

Zimmermann in the same situation last year, and he's done well so far this season.

If the Nationals are really going to stick with this, then they might think of looking for another solid

starter to pick up at the trade deadline.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez has been solid at No. 2. He's got 12 wins, tied for first in the majors, and

Gonzalez (an All-Star pick) easily could serve as a No. 1. That's no problem.

Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson are still there, and both have done well in the first half. The No. 5

starter position remains in question, turning into a battle between Chien-Ming Wang (on DL with hip injury)

and Ross Detwiler.

If the Nationals won't have Strasburg, another solid starter would help them greatly. They would be in

pretty good shape in a short playoff series without him, but they've got to reach postseason play first.

The Nationals also should get a break from the injury problems they somehow got through in the first

half.

Right fielder Jayson Werth should be back at some point in the second half. Michael Morse missed the

first 50 games, but he's now back and rounding into form.

Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder finally appears to be healing, and he's also finding his way. But they'll also

get right-hander Drew Storen back to help the bullpen, possibly later this week, and top pinch-hitter Chad

Tracy will return soon.

In the end, the major question is going to be how the Nationals handle the Strasburg situation.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Dwight Howard ejected for hanging on rim

NHL rumors: Capitals acquire Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk in bold trade

Report: Chiefs making ‘strong push’ to make Eric Berry highest-paid safety in NFL

Dana White hints at Conor McGregor's next opponent

Report: Steelers make Brown NFL's highest-paid WR

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Chiefs sign Duvernay-Tardif to five-year extension

MLB considering introducing 'stickier' baseballs

Report: Browns have discussed trading No. 12 pick for Garoppolo

Report: Lowry expected to miss 4-5 weeks, return for playoffs

Report: Cowboys to release Romo in coming weeks

Report: Jennings expected to sign with Hornets

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Box Score 2/24: A night of NBA disrespect

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season since 2000

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker