Washington Nationals: What Must Happen After All-Star Break
The first is that the team must continue to hit for power. Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon have carried the majority of the weight in terms of hitting for power. When Bryce Harper returns to the batting order, he has to add power to the rest of the lineup. The Nationals cannot afford to leave men on base. The team constantly relies on one, two or three run victories, and continuing to hit for power will help them to win convincingly.
The second thing the team must do is keep their pitching staff healthy.
The Nationals have one of the best bullpens in the major league. Now with Gio Gonzalez back in the starting five, they are strong all the way through their rotation. A playoff team needs to have dominant pitching and the Nationals appear to have found that. The team will need all of their starting pitchers to remain healthy to make a run deep into the playoffs. In order to keep up with rivals like the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals have to rely on the likes of Gonzalez just as much as Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano or Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg leads the team in strikeouts, but has struggled when it comes to keeping opposing teams at bay. The team wants to only go-to the bullpen to close out a game, not get themselves out of a jam. Strasburg needs to stay healthy and get comfortable in his delivery after the All-Star break. A Wild Card spot and the Division Title will be up for grabs between the Braves and the Nationals in the National League East.