Much like a semester break, the All Star break gives teams and fans a chance to rest up and gear up for the march ahead.  The Thursday of the All Star break is now the longest day on the sports calendar…thank goodness for the British Open and Tour De France, not to mention WNBA and MLS.  After taking two of three from Pittsburgh the Nationals get another off day after having four last week (much like the start of the season MLB likes to let teams gather momentum).  Thank goodness for the off day as they played 18 innings Sunday.

Dissecting the Division…and playoff possibilities- the Nats lead the NL East by six games as the New York Mets and Miami are currently tied for the second wildcard.  The Chicago Cubs recent swoon means San Francisco has the best record in the NL…with the Nats in third behind Barry Goldwater’s team.  The Los Angeles Dodgers currently own the top wildcard mark.  St. Louis and Pittsburgh remain on the outside looking in-for now.

Last Week’s Heroes- Tanner Roark is becoming the pitching staff’s George Harrison. Eight scoreless innings Saturday night gave the bullpen the necessary rest entering Sunday’s marathon…and Roark has pitched at least 7 innings in 12 of his 20 starts this year.  The 29-year old is 6-1 since Memorial Day…and is becoming the #3 pitcher that many hoped Gio Gonzalez would be this year.  Daniel Murphy after going 2 for 3 in the All Star Game had hamstring issues all weekend and only had one at-bat against the Pirates.  But what a plate appearance a pinch hit HR in the 9th.  Stephen Drew hit .364 against Pittsburgh.

Last Week’s Humbled- Sometimes it’s tough to get in gear after taking time off.  Ben Revere’s weekend taken by itself (.167 with no runs scored) is hopefully a bump in the road compared to his recent surge while Jayson Werth produced walks, runs and a stolen base despite hitting .077.  Oliver Perez’s 6.35 ERA in July is more of a clear picture than the HR he coughed up to Starling Marte.  Dusty Baker took the blame for not intentionally walking Marte in the 18th…but the toothpick-chewing wizard has made more good moves than bad this year.

Game to Watch- Thursday Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It’s a 12:05pm game…continuing the tradition of the Dodgers coming to DC during the hottest week of the year.  I can only imagine this week will be no exception-but you can’t miss a Strasburg start.  Even if it’s against Bud Norris…

Game to Miss- Sunday the Nats host San Diego with the starter yet to be determined… wrapping up a homestand during heatbomb season.  It’s a 1:35 start.  Stay at brunch for an extra mimosa.  Get to the pool early and crush the crossword.  Do laundry amidst the backdrop of Law & Order re-runs. You’ll thank me later…