clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Dusty Baker hoping Nationals can finish first-half strong, come out of Break strong...

Dusty Baker's Washington Nationals are one win from tying the franchise record for wins in a "first half" and Baker is hoping that they can finish strong and pick up where they left off after the All-Star Break.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With 51 wins so far in the so-called "first half" of the 2016 campaign, the current Washington Nationals squad is tied with the 2014 Nats for the second-most most wins before the All-Star Game in franchise history (2005-present), behind only the '05 Nationals, led by Frank Robinson, who won 52 games before the break.

That team went on to finish 81-81, dropping 29 of 74 games in the second-half as things fell apart for the inaugural Nationals.

"I've had a couple teams really pick up steam and steamroll to the finish line. It's a race, that's what this is, a race." -Dusty Baker on finishing the first strong, starting second strong

"From day one until the All-Star Break was over, it was exciting times here," Robinson told reporters when returned to the nation's capital last season and had his name added to Nationals Park's "Ring of Honor".

"It's just like a magical thing that was happening to this ballclub. The players really put the effort into it. They did all they had to do whenever we needed something late in the ball game, they got it done. I was calling my family after the game and saying, 'We won another one!' and they said 'We know!'....It was exciting. The only thing that I regret is that we weren't able to finish it off. I would have loved to finish it off for the fans here and this organization and it didn't happen, but I'm very proud of that team."

Robinson said the excitement the Nationals' first-half run generated helped to justify the decision to bring baseball back to Washington when some thought it wouldn't work.

"It was exciting times when we came here," Robinson said when he returned for the first postseason run by a D.C.-based team in decades in 2012.

"Especially the first half of the first year. It was great and it was exciting and it was good for the fans because people were saying that baseball wouldn't go here with the Orioles just down the way, and I told them they were wrong from the beginning.

"When I was in Montreal and thinking about coming here, I said, 'These are great baseball fans here and if you put a good product out there they'll come out and root for the team.' It's great. It's great to see this and it's well-deserved."

A postseason run in the first season in Washington would have electrified the city, but baseball fans in the nation's capital had to wait seven years to experience playoff baseball.

Robinson wanted to do it for the team and city in 2005, but it didn't work out.

"We'd like to have done it and we thought we had a good chance of doing it in '05, the first year. We had a terrific first-half and someone turned the switch off when we went to break and a different team came back after the break, but it was fun the first half of the season."

The current Nationals' skipper told reporters recently that he's seen it all before, and he wants to finish strong in the last few games left before the Break and then avoid a second-half letdown.

"I've had it both ways," Baker said last week.

"I've had it where it gets really tough down the stretch because guys are seeing there's only a few games left and I've had a couple teams really pick up steam and steamroll to the finish line.

"It's a race, that's what this is, a race. When do you start playing guys that are a little bit hurt, or when do stop resting guys. It depends. It depends how the race is going. You don't assume anything, at any time, overlook anybody."

Baker said he just wants to continue doing what the Nationals have been doing so far this season, win consistently like they have with a 16-7 start in April, a 16-14 May and 16-11 June.

As he explained earlier this year, if you can just win 15 games a month, you're on your way to a big season.

"I said 15 games a month, well, we've been 16 games a month and then I'd like to hopefully throw in a 20 here somewhere."

"First you want to gain momentum through the break and then you want to pick up momentum very quickly after the break."

After last night's loss, the Nationals have three games left to tie or pass the mark for most first-half wins in franchise history (2005-present) and head into the break on a high-note.