Wire Taps: Washington Nationals' "First-Half" Reviews, "Second-Half" One Day Away.

Livan Hernandez #61 of the Washington Nationals doesn't quite understand the "planking" phenomenon, but he picked a good place to try it...(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

• Programming Notes: Hold on. Tomorrow night at 7:35 pm EDT, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves will begin the so-called "second-half" with Livan Hernandez on the mound in Turner Field against the Braves' Tim Hudson. It's been four days without Nats baseball. No diving Shark catches, no nasty Jordan Zimmermann sliders, no Danny Espinosa dingers, no Jayson Werth...uh...the second-half will be WereWerth's half. Can the pitchers keep it up. Will Ryan Zimmerman's presence in the lineup on an everyday basis spark the offensive surge Nats fans and officials have been waiting for? Just hold on, tomorrow night baseball is back. Til then, it's more links...

• AND LINKS AND...

• NATS BEAT: 

• "Michael Morse worked out of an early slump to become the hottest hitter in the game in May and June, and Danny Espinosa set records for power numbers from a rookie second baseman." - "Nationals first-half player grades (updated with pitching staff)" - Ben Goessling, MASNSports.com

• "More than three months later, all the Nats know is that they really didn't know at all what they were getting into this season." - "Nationals 1st half report card" - Mark Zuckerman, CSNWashington.com

• "[B.J.] Upton is hitting .387 in July, with a .710 slugging percentage, and while his home games are played in Tropicana Field, he's batting .292, with a .372 on-base percentage, in road games." - "New York Mets have many trade options for Carlos Beltran" - Buster Olney, ESPN

• "Pitching and defense, which had been missing since they arrived in D.C., were the main reasons the Nationals were within striking distance from the Wild Card lead heading into the All-Star break." - "Washington Nationals showing great promise at All-Star break" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com: News

• "Meantime, the Nationals, with a roster stacked with productive veterans, could be at the epicenter of the trade market..." - "Top 5 MLB second-half story lines" - Dave Sheinin, The Washington Post

• "You've probably heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the trivia game that challenges players to connect fellow actors to Kevin Bacon...." - "6 degrees of Matt Stairs" - Patrick Stevens, Washington Times

• "When Democrats and Republicans face off in the Congressional Baseball Game on Thursday, the nation’s elected representatives will raise revenue to promote social welfare..." - "Who says Congress won't step up to the plate?" - Paulina Berkovich, Washington Times

• "In 1954, in Cleveland, the American League called upon Washington left-hander Dean Stone with two outs in the top of the eighth inning and the National League up 9-8." - "History repeats itself - twice" - Phil Wood, MASNSports.com

• "So GM Mike Rizzo isn't actively trying to dump veterans in exchange for prospects who may not help the club for several years." - "Nats' second-half storylines" - Mark Zuckerman, CSNWashington.com

• Your Daily Message From The Dalai Lama On Twitter (@DalaiLama): "The very purpose of spiritual practice is to help others." - 

• NATS MINOR LEAGUE UPDATES: 

Class-A Auburn: "Scoring two in the first, three in the second, and three more in the third, the Doubledays jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back." -  "Early Offense Powers Doubledays to 9-3 Win" - Auburn Doubledays News

Class-A Hagerstown: "Winds were so heavy that a section of the outfield wall in center field at Lake Olmstead Stadium was knocked down." - "Makeup Will be a Thursday Doubleheader" - Hagerstown Suns News

• "Regardless of how I tried to steer [Hagerstown GM Bill] Farley toward the path of [Bryce] Harper's alleged arrogance and petulance, he wanted to take me down his primrose lane." - "Hagerstown made most of Harper's first step up ladder" - Ron Kantowski, ReviewJournal.com

Class-A Potomac: "It's Harry Potter Night and Thursday Cheers at the Pfitz! Make sure you come dressed up in a Harry Potter-themed costume for a special discount!" - "Doubleheader Tonight at the Pfitz!" - Potomac Nationals News

• "Gilbert and Moore were two of six Nationals farmhands selected to the Eastern League All-Star Game, which was preceded by the home run derby." - "Before Eastern League All-Star Game, Archie Gilbert and Tyler Moore represent Nats affiliate in home run derby" - Chad Graff, Nationals Journal - The Washington Post

• "Rhinehart has gone 8-for-18 the last five games, including three straight multi-hit games. He has crushed six homers in the last 10 games, with a .394 average during that run." - "Rhinehart and Gilbert with base hits as West rolls in All-Star game" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• "Erik Arnesen found a winning formula this spring – pound the zone with hard fastballs and keep hitters off balance with a deceiving splitter." - "Nats prospects Erik Arnesen, Bill Rhinehart impress at Eastern League All-Star Game" - Chad Graff, Nationals Journal - The Washington Post

• "Nationals right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang will now make his fourth rehab start on Thursday for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, confirmed a team source." - "Wang to now pitch Thursday for Double-A Harrisburg" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• Tom Milone - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 16 P, 10 S; Matt Antonelli - 0 for 2, 1 K. - INT All-Stars vs. PCL All-Stars - MiLB.com Gameday

SHARKNATSTOWN:

• "No sports whatsoever, the Shark being far away, and this growing hunger from eating an insufficient breakfast combine to make a downright dreary day." - "A BREAK FROM THE ALL-STAR BREAK BLUES" - Sharkadina

NATSTOWN: 

• "Is it too late to corner the market on Bryce Harper "Pops and Mom" temporary wrist tattoos?" - "Here's what the new Harpersburg t-shirts look like?" - Nats Enquirer

• "As the season reaches its ceremonial halfway point, it’s a good time to take a look at the minor leagues and re-evaluate the team’s prospect situation." - "TNB's Midseason Top 10 Nationals Prospects" - Will Yoder, The Nats Blog

• "Tyler Clippard wasn’t the only Washington National making an all star game appearance this week..." - "Video: Nationals racing presidents at the All Star Game" - Presidents Race Fan, Let Teddy Win!

• "Tonight at Nationals Park sixty-four members of the Senate and House will put on their baseball jerseys and ball caps to renewal their traditional Congressional Baseball Game..." - "Democrats and Republicans on the Baseball Diamond" - Mark Hornbaker, Washington Nationals Daily News

• NL EAST UPDATES: 

Mets: "'I do want to make it clear that the Rodriguez trade should not signal anything to anyone about Beltran,' [Mets' GM Sandy] Alderson said in a conference call Wednesday." - "Sandy Alderson: K-Rod Trade Doesn't Mean Fire Sale For Mets; Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes Moves Depend On Team's Play Over Next Few Weeks" - CBS New York

Braves: "While the pitching-centric Braves would like to trade for an affordable right-handed bat, they don’t have a lot of money to spend and won’t mortgage the future by trading a slew of prospects..." - "Braves' All-Stars like team's chances, trade or no trade" - David O'Brien, ajc.com

Phillies: "The Braves play the NL East 39 times over their remaining 70 games (56%) while the Phillies play within the division 30 times over their final 71 (42%)." - "Phillies and Braves Strength of Schedule" - Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley

Marlins"The Achilles' heel for much of last season, the bullpen for the most part is now a strong suit." - "What went right, wrong and what's ahead in the second half for Marlins" - Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

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