PHOENIX -- The Nationals entered Wednesday's series finale against the D-backs at 20-19, 2 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East. It's not what most baseball experts anticipated. With the addition of right-hander Doug Fister, many felt the Nationals would be one of the better teams in baseball.
But it hasn't helped that the team has been hit with major injuries to key players such as third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and outfielder Bryce Harper. The Nationals are also ranked the worst in defense in the NL.
However, right fielder Jayson Werth continues to be optimistic that the Nationals can be a factor in the NL East.
"We have a big game [on Wednesday against the D-backs] that would make us two games over .500. The way we played at times, the injuries that we have had, I think we are in a good spot," Werth said. "Even if you are at .500 ball, it's not that bad. ... I think everyone is looking at it like it's a bad thing to be playing above .500 ball right now. But I think it's good, especially if you believe we are the type of team in the second half that is going to get hot and make a run at it.
"We just need to keep our heads above water right now. ... We'll start getting some guys back. We need to be in striking distance. We're fine. We are more than fine."
In order to play better, the Nationals must get better performances in all areas of the game -- offense, defense and starting pitching.
"Everybody says we need to get on a run. Well that's true, but we have to have prolonged success to do that in every aspect of the game," manager Matt Williams said. "To assess the first seven weeks, we have been bobbling along. We need to start swimming a little bit. We want to play better offense, better defense and [have] better pitching.
"The ability is there. You get on one of those roles and gain some confidence in all those areas, it seems to [go] a little bit better for you. We're OK. We are not where we want it to be, but we are OK. We'll continue to grind and play hard."
After resting sore finger, McLouth back in lineup
PHOENIX -- Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth was in the starting lineup on Wednesday, hitting eighth against the D-backs. He is dealing with a sore right index finger. It didn't help that the scab broke while he took batting practice on Monday. McLouth was given the day off on Tuesday to allow the injury to heal.
When approached on Wednesday morning, McLouth said the finger is much better. McLouth originally hurt it making a diving catch against the Dodgers on May 5 at Nationals Park.
"I'll put a little covering on it and it should be completely healed in the next couple of days," McLouth said.
McLouth is off to a slow start, going 6-for-56 (.107) entering Wednesday's action, but he is fourth on the team in walks with 10, which is an indication that he is seeing the ball pretty well.
"I wouldn't say I have swung the bat well, but my at-bats haven't been awful," McLouth said. "I have a lot of walks. I finally [got some hits] through the hole the last couple of nights, but I'm OK."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.