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Nationals' lineup for series opener with the Pirates in D.C. + GM Mike Rizzo on second-half improvements

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Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies about what he'd like to see improve in the second half. Here's the Nationals' lineup for the first game of three with the Pirates in D.C.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Washington finished the so-called "first half" of the 2016 campaign in first place in the NL East, with a 54-36 record and a 6.0-game lead over the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, who were tied for second at 47-41.

The Nationals' 54 first-half wins were the most in franchise history (2005-present), topping the '05 Nats' mark of 52 wins before the All-Star Break.

Their record was the third-best in the majors (tied with Texas), behind only the Chicago Cubs (53-35) and San Francisco Giants (57-33) at the Break.

Nats' skipper Dusty Baker was asked after the Nationals took 3 of 4 from the Mets in New York to wrap up the first half of the season how he would approach the second half after they finished strong and gave themselves some wiggle room with the series win in Citi Field.

"You don't mention lead too much, you just look forward," the veteran skipper explained.

"You don't look behind you. And if you do look behind you, you don't turn around. You look in the rearview mirror and sooner or later we might be up on the crest and you won't see anybody real close in the mirror. So the main thing is you've just got to play. Keep playing."

Washington's hitters were 8th overall in the National League in the first half with a .252 AVG, they were 7th in on-base percentage with a .327 OBP, and 5th in the NL in slugging percentage at .430 SLG.

Their 9.3% BB% is the third-highest in the NL, their 19.8% K% is the NL's second-lowest. Their .282 BABIP is the NL's third-lowest. Their 98 wRC+ are fifth-highest in the National League.

Their +105 run differential is the second-highest in the National League as well, behind only the Chicago Cubs +139.

Nationals' starters have the second-lowest ERA in the NL (3.39), fourth-lowest FIP (3.60), second-highest K/9 (9.43 K/9) and the eighth-lowest BB/9 (2.76), while Nationals' relievers have the second-lowest ERA (3.11), the lowest FIP (3.29), the highest K/9 (9.50 K/9) and lowest BB/9 (2.89).

So what do they need to improve upon in the second-half of the 2016 season? GM Mike Rizzo was asked that question when he appeared on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.

"We'd like to continue to play good baseball," Rizzo said.

"I think we need to really focus in on playing good fundamental defense and good fundamental offense, be very run-efficient.

"Our offensive efficiency was better in the first half than it was last year and hopefully it will continue. I think driving in runs with runners in scoring position, two-out RBIs, I think that's something that we're going to focus in on in the second half."

The second half officially starts tonight, though it really started two weeks back...

Here's the new Nationals' lineup for the second-half opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates: