The Washington Nationals are in the midst of a pennant race that seems to only be intensifying as the All-Star Break approaches.
The biggest factor going forward for the Nationals will be Bryce Harper, who was activated from the DL earlier in the week. Harper wasted no time getting back into action as he launched an opposite-field home run in his first at-bat.
Harper is unquestionably one of the most dynamic players in the game and has already proved to the Nationals just how important he is to them.
In the games that Harper has started since he was called up last season, the Nationals are 102-77.
So what do the Nationals and Harper have to do to maintain this success and eclipse the Atlanta Braves in the NL East?
First of all, Harper needs to do what he does best and play with the untamed energy that helps distinguish him from some of the other elite players in baseball. The energy that he plays with is a boost to his team.
A couple other players who play with the same exuberance that Harper plays with have been leading their teams as well.
The spark that these electric players give their teams is unquestionable. Harper has led the Nationals last season to the playoffs, and if he can play at this high level again, he can do it in 2013.
Harper will need to be aggressive on the basepaths as well, forcing the defense to get him out when he tries to turn singles into doubles and a routine ground ball into a hit.
With his aggressive play comes the risk of injuries. As long as Harper can keep himself away from any serious injury in the second half of the season, while continuing to play with the tenacity that we are familiar with, then the Nationals are going to win a lot of ballgames this summer.
Harper is going to be the single most important element to this team going forward, and as long as he continues to play hard and remain healthy, he will provide them the best chance to shoot past the Braves in the East.