The Nationals, The Orioles And First-Half Dreams To Remember

The 2012 All-Star break is here, and Washington is four games up on the NL East. Baltimore is also second in the AL East, somehow. It’s unclear which is more unlikely, but I will take them both and always remember fondly what was one hell of a half-season of baseball.

The Nats, seemingly a year away from entering an extended run as contenders, have baseball’s third-best record (and fifth-best run differential) despite FIVE top regulars — Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Drew Storen — missing time. Thankfully, Bryce Harper arrived in full, ahead of time, and is now only the third 19-year-old All-Star ever. He even would’ve been the fourth-youngest player in this year’s Futures game.

Also, their starting pitching is superb, perhaps historically so, and Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, Craig Stammen, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche picked up where the fallen left off. Strasburg will be shut down in September, but Werth and Storen come back soon, and stalwart John Lannan is primed for a vital return to the rotation. (Don’t let it be Wang.)

As for the O’s, after months of suspected collapse they sink into the break. Still, for this team to be above .500 is a baseball miracle. They have the third-worst run differential in the AL, their pitching is actually offensive and the only standout in the lineup is Adam Jones, who has become a lovely player.

The second half will almost certainly be unkind to Baltimore; it’s their near-annual tradition to come undone. It’s a wonder it hasn’t happened already, but those first-half wins can’t be taken away, and anything close to a .500 finish is cause for celebration, especially with the phenomenal Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado on the way.

Alas, enjoy the break, and watching those Nats on the NL side of the Midsummer Classic. Can’t wait to see them coming down the stretch.

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