ATLANTA -- The Nationals will be celebrating what has already been a superb first half by sending a club-record number of players to the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City.
One of the biggest surprises in baseball has been Washington's stellar first three months -- the club has sat in first place in the National League East for 77 of 87 days -- thanks largely to players like Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Ian Desmond, who were selected to the National League squad on Sunday.
National League roster
Buster Posey, SF
Joey Votto, CIN
Dan Uggla, ATL
Rafael Furcal, STL
Pablo Sandoval, SF
Melky Cabrera, SF
Carlos Beltran, STL
Matt Kemp, LAD
Matt Cain, SF
Aroldis Chapman, CIN
R.A. Dickey, NYM
Gio Gonzalez, WAS
Cole Hamels, PHI
Joel Hanrahan, PIT
Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Craig Kimbrel, ATL
Lance Lynn, STL
Wade Miley, ARI
Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
Stephen Strasburg, WAS
Huston Street, SD
Yadier Molina, STL
Carlos Ruiz, PHI
Bryan LaHair, CHC
Jose Altuve, HOU
Starlin Castro, CHC
Ian Desmond, WAS
David Wright, NYM
Ryan Braun, MIL
Jay Bruce, CIN
Carlos Gonzalez, COL
Andrew McCutchen, PIT
Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
They will represent the organization, which has not sent more than one player since 2005 (the team's first year in Washington) and has never sent more than two.
"I've seen it come that far," manager Davey Johnson said. "Like I said last August, we have the talent now to compete and win a pennant. Last year it was just [Tyler Clippard] in the All-Star Game. This is more like it. Three of my boys are on the All-Star team, and I'm proud of them."
The trio could also be joined in Kansas City by rookie Bryce Harper, who was named one of the league's five Final Vote candidates.
Strasburg and Gonzalez have helped comprise arguably the best pitching staff in baseball this season, leading the Nationals to an MLB-best 3.18 team ERA. Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, leads the league in strikeouts.
It will be his and Desmond's first trip to the Midsummer Classic, to be played on July 10 at Kauffman Stadium. Gonzalez earned the honor last season with the Athletics, and will now have represented both leagues.
"Obviously, when you get more than one guy -- when you get Desi and Gio in there, too -- it's huge," Strasburg said. "It means that we're winning. Typically, the team in last place only gets one guy."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
The Nationals sent pitchers Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero to the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit. Clippard was the Washington representative last season in Arizona. The team has not had a starter since Alfonso Soriano in 2006.
Strasburg took baseball by storm in his 2010 rookie campaign, which was shortened to just 12 starts after he tore the ulnar-collateral ligament in his right elbow. He made just five starts last season after Tommy John surgery, but has rebounded to be one of the league's most formidable starters once again.
"It's going to be a tremendous experience for me," he said. "It's amazing to think where I was a year ago. It's great to see all the hard work has all paid off."
Gonzalez, who spent the last four seasons with the A's before he was traded to Washington, stands alone in second place for wins (11) among National League pitchers after beating the Braves on Sunday.
"It was the team that helped out, big-time," Gonzalez said of his All-Star bid. "This one means a little bit more because everyone played a big part in it. I'm not taking anything away from what Oakland did for me. ... But it feels like we all did something big today in getting the win. Representing the Washington Nationals and my family means a lot to me."
The Nationals are 25-7 in games started by Strasburg or Gonzalez this year.
Desmond was not listed among the top five vote-getters in the final installment of fan-voting updates among NL shortstops, but NL manager Tony La Russa is keen on him, and his numbers place him among the league's elite at his position.
In his third full season with the big league club, Desmond leads NL shortstops in doubles (23), is second in homers (13), fourth in runs (39) and batting average (.276), and second in total hits (88).
"I've never made an All-Star team in professional baseball, and to make one in the big leagues is incredibly humbling," Desmond said. "It's awesome. It's obviously all smiles. It was a special moment. It goes beyond Davey. Everyone in the whole organization. I can't tell you how many times I stayed back to take extra ground balls with coaches, or extra hitting. I'm at a loss for words, for once."
Entering this year's announcement, only four players on the Nationals' active roster had All-Star Game experience: pitcher Edwin Jackson (2009), Ryan Zimmerman (2009), Clippard and Gonzalez. Even including 2009 All-Star Jayson Werth (on the disabled list), the Nats did not have a player with multiple All-Star appearances.
"I don't think it's a secret, and people around the game of baseball and people in uniform, everybody notices who we are and the makeup of this ballclub, and they know we have a lot of talent," Johnson said.
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.