As the Nationals unwind at the All-Star break and celebrate All-Stars Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, let's take a look back at the highlights – and lowlights – of the first half of the season, from Strasburg's struggles to Scherzer's no-hitter.
High: Uggla's 3-run homer caps historic rally, snaps skid (4/28)
When a team goes down by eight runs in the second inning, we usually chalk it up as a loss and look forward to the next game. That's not how the Nationals operate, though. After falling behind 9-1 to the Braves, the Nats mounted a heroic comeback, scoring 11 runs in the last five frames of the game, pulling off a miraculous 13-12 victory. While the win was a team effort, the hero of the day was Dan Uggla, who blasted a three-run home run in the top of the ninth to give the Nats the lead. Closer Drew Storen delivered a scoreless inning and the Nats notched their first win in seven games. The Nats not only pulled off a much-needed win, but also set a franchise record for largest deficit overcome in a win.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Low: Slow start raises concerns
Considered the odds-on favorite to win the NL East, the Nationals had fans and analysts alike confounded with the way they started the season. After dropping their opening series at home to the Mets, the Nats lost two series in a row on the road to the Phillies and Red Sox. They finally won a series when they took on the Phillies at Nationals Park, but soon found themselves with a 7-13 record after dropping six straight games. Could this team live up its potential? The Nats quickly answered that question by reversing course and winning 20 out their next 25 games, swinging from six games under .500 to (7-13) to nine game above .500 (27-18) in less than a month.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
High: Harper's epic home run streak (5/6-5/9)
Bryce Harper has hit his fair share of home runs in his fledgling major-league career, but he proved just how powerful he is by unleashing a torrent of home runs in three consecutive games in May. Harper's mammoth power display began on May 6, when he hit three home runs against the Marlins. He followed that performance up by hitting two long flies two days later against the Braves, becoming the first player in Nationals franchise history to hit five home runs in two days, and the youngest player in MLB history to do so. He propped a cherry on top of his historic home run surge by hitting yet another homer against the Braves on May 9. In total, Harper hit an impressive 13 home runs in May.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
Low: Strasburg gets shelled by D-backs (5/12)
As the Nats overcame their early-season struggles by winning 11 out of 13 from late April to early May, concern mounted over starter Stephen Strasburg, who had been shaky in his first six starts of the season. Seven would not be a lucky number for Strasburg. Facing the Diamondbacks on May 12, the 26-year-old righty gave up seven hits and eight runs and was pulled from the game having only recorded 10 outs (3 1/3 innings). Strasburg's rough stretch continued, and he was eventually placed on the DL with a trapezius injury. He pitched well upon returning a month later, but has now raised questions about his durability after hitting the DL once again after two starts, this time with an oblique injury.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
High: Zimmerman bombs Yankees with walk-off HR (5/19)
When two of the top teams on the East Coast squared off in Washington D.C. in May, it certainly lived it to its billing. The opening game between the Yankees and the Nats was a tightly contested affair that required extra innings to settle the score. With a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Ryan Zimmerman crushed a line drive off the right-field foul pole for a walk-off 8-6 win. Zimmerman's walk-off homer was the 10th of his career, which put him among elite company in baseball history.
Getty ImagesPatrick Smith
The Nationals hope that they've experienced all the injuries and injury scares they'll have in 2015 in the first half of the season. Injuries have hit the team left and right, and mostly to key players. Jayson Werth (wrist), Ryan Zimmerman (foot), Stephen Strasburg (oblique), Anthony Rendon (quad), and Denard Span (back) are all currently on the DL, and both Rendon and Strasburg have had multiple stints on the DL. New additions Reed Johnson and Nate McLouth haven't been able to have an impact on the team due to their injuries, and Span has been playing through a variety of injuries all season.
After a near-miss at a no-hitter in his prior outing, Max Scherzer notched his first career no-hitter in a dominant performance against the Pirates, striking out 10 batters while only needing 106 pitches to achieve the feat. The heartbreak came when Scherzer lost his perfect game on a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the ninth inning. Nonetheless, he held on to the no-hitter and completed two of the best consecutive starts in recent history, as he struck out 16 in a one-hit complete game shutout immediately preceding his no-hitter.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
Low: Desmond's massive struggles at the plate
Ian Desmond has been a steady contributor to the Nats' offense in the past three seasons, but the first half of the season was a completely different story for the 29-year-old shortstop. Desmond is hitting .211/.255/.334 with seven home runs and 24 RBI at the All-Star break, a stark contrast to the .274 batting average, 12 homers and 40 RBI he averaged per mathematical half-season (Nats reached that point on July 4 this year) in the past three years. The Nats were hopeful that Desmond had snapped out of his slump when he brought his average up .260 in May, but it dipped right back down to .222 by the end of June. The team hopes that Desmond has exorcised all of his demons in the first half of the season and will be able to turn things around after the All-Star break.