PHILADELPHIA - With this past weekend marking the official halfway point of the season, it's safe to say there have been a few surprises thus far in the baseball year.
None bigger, though, than the team that's pacing the ultra-competitive National League East.
Washington won its 50th game Sunday and, hard as it is to fathom, if the Atlanta Braves are to keep pace with the Nationals right now, it'll take more efforts such as Sunday's 4-3, come-from-behind victory against Philadelphia.
Ryan Langerhans tripled off Phillies closer Billy Wagner in the ninth inning and scored the game-winning run on Wilson Betemit's sacrifice fly.
Atlanta trailed 3-0 entering the seventh. Its rally was the first this year from three runs down. That comeback, capped by Chris Reitsma's seventh save, also extended the team's streak of winning or tying a series to five.
The Braves accomplished that feat 10 times last season, which was a reason why they won their 13th consecutive division title. Winning No. 14 might hinge on a similar feat. Especially if those pesky Nats keep their recent run rolling.
Washington, which still leads the East by 51 games over Atlanta, continues to march on as if it has no real recollection that, until this year, the franchise was the oft-hapless Montreal Expos.
After a double play and a fielder's choice, just when you thought Andruw Jones' hot streak might be winding down, he got into an Ugueth Urbina fastball, driving it to the left field gap.
The double drove in Marcus Giles from first to tie the game at 3.
Johnny Estrada and Langerhans, who had singled and doubled, respectively, scored in the previous inning to cut into the Phillies' lead.
The hole came courtesy of one swing, Ryan Howard's two-out, three-run homer in the fourth off Jorge Sosa.
ALL-STAR BRAVES: John Smoltz and Andruw Jones were selected to the represent the National League in the All-Star Game on July 12th in Detroit.
It's Smoltz's seventh All-Star Game selection, but first as a starter since 1996. It will be Jones' fourth All-Star Game, but his first Home Run Derby appearance.
Smoltz, who started the year 0-3 and didn't pick up his first win until April 26, went 5-1 in June. Overall, the 38-year-old is 9-5 with a 2.68 ERA.
Smoltz has won five consecutive starts, with three complete games, dating back to June 11.
Jones' 13 June home runs broke Eddie Mathews' 1955 franchise record of 12 homers in a month.
Jones leads the majors with 26 homers.
Reach Travis Haney at email@example.com.
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