Quick Links

Harper back in lineup despite stitches

761376.png

Harper back in lineup despite stitches

This being the apex of hockey season and all, we should be accustomed to professional athletes playing hurt, even if it means playing with 10 stitches above your eye. Yet because we're talking about baseball, not hockey, it is somewhat surprising to see Bryce Harper back in the Nationals' lineup, one night after he suffered a severe cut above his eye upon slamming his bat against a dugout wall and having it ricochet back at his face.

Nobody's ever accused the 19-year-old of being soft, though at the moment the bigger concern might be that he's cold at the plate. Harper has just one hit in his last 13 at-bats and has seen his batting average plummet to .233. Perhaps he can get things going again tonight against Reds right-hander Mat Latos.

Latos will be opposed by Jordan Zimmermann, looking to earn his much-deserved second win of the season, even though all six out of his outings to date have been quality starts.

As you know, I'm not in Cincinnati, so please enjoy the game and the conversation. And remember, no matter how frustrated you get, it's never a good idea to slam your bat on the dugout wall...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WNEW (1580 AM), XM 89
Weather: Cloudy, 73 degrees, Wind 2 mph out to RF

NATIONALS (20-12)
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann

REDS (16-15)
SS Zack Cozart
CF Drew Stubbs
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
LF Ryan Ludwick
C Ryan Hanigan
RHP Mat Latos

UMPIRES
HP Eric Cooper, 1B Marty Foster, 2B Tim Timmons, 3B Jeff Kellogg (cc)

Quick Links

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

harper_9-28.png
USA Today Sports Images

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

DOWNLOAD THE SHOW ON iTUNES

It's a busy time of the year for the Nationals as they approach the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Will they make a deal and who are they willing to part with?

Tim and I went in-depth on that subject and more including Bryce Harper's slump and how it may affect his contract future with the Nationals. Does this change either side's thinking when it comes to a long-term contract extension?

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

Quick Links

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Triple-A Syracuse

Reynaldo Lopez: 9 inn, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K, 0 BB

Surprise, surprise: Lopez threw a gem last Sunday. The righty threw 96 pitches, 66 for strikes as he went the distance and shutout Rochester. He'll be back in DC, in some form or another, soon. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Phillips Valdez: 7 inn, 6 H, 2 R, 2 K, 2 BB

Slimer pickings in Harrisburg. Valdez pitched well enough to get the win against New Hampshire. A week ago, he went 7 inn, 8 H, 2 R, and 4 K in a win against Richmond, if you prefer more walks hits to less walks. Still, Harrisburg is feeling the pinch of no more Giolito/Lopez. 

High-A Potomac

Whit Mayberry: 6 inn, 5 H, 1 R, 4 K, 3 BB

Mayberry, whose 3-1 on the year with a 4.00 ERA, pitched one of the best games of his season yesterday. It was only the second time this year he's held a team under two runs, and his 4 strikeouts were one shy from his season best (7) on June 30th. 

Low-A Hagerstown

Everyone who pitched for the Suns on 7/24: 9 inn, 7 H, 2 R, 7 K, 2 BB

It was a group effort in the Suns win against Charleston last Sunday. It was also a Nats reunion, with rehabbing starter Joe Ross getting the start and Sammy Solis continuing to rehab as well. It was James Borque, however, who got the win, pitching 4 innings while allowing one run on two hits. 

Quick Links

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .240/.307/.410

Team ERA: 4.56

Runs per game: 4.1

 

STOCK UP

Trea Turner, 2B/CF: .320 AVG, 4 RBI, 4 XBH, 4 SB, 5 R

It’s going to be hard for Dusty Baker to keep Turner out of the lineup, isn’t it?

In a short period of time, the recently-promoted 23-year-old infield prospect has already shown he deserves to be the Nats’ leadoff man for the foreseeable future. In the last nine days alone, the speedster notched three triples (two away from tying the team lead), two doubles and five stolen bases. That’s the kind of production Washington has sorely missed atop the lineup.

When the Nats played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, an American League ballpark, they had the luxury of playing Turner in center field, putting Ben Revere in left and making Jayson Werth the designated hitter. But when they begin their upcoming series in San Francisco, they’ll lose the DH, essentially forcing Baker to choose between Turner and Revere.

Are the Nats ready to make Turner the everyday center fielder over Revere?

Wilson Ramos, C: .478 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.346 OPS

For those who thought Ramos might come back to earth after the all-star break, think again. The 28-year-old catcher’s career year rolled on with another big week, raising his average to .336 — second-best in the NL to teammate Daniel Murphy.

Ramos now leads all big-league catchers in average, RBI, OPS and is tied for the top spot in home runs. Not too shabby.  

 

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .050 AVG, 7 K, .180 OPS

At what point does an extended slump simply become a down season? Because after nearly three months of under performance, that appears to be where the Nats are with the reigning NL MVP.  

It's hard to explain why Harper hasn't quite looked like himself for so long — have pitchers found a weakness in his swing? Is he dealing with an unknown injury? Something else entirely?—but the 23-year-old phenom hasn't given any indication that he's going to get out of his funk anytime soon. He has just seven hits in his last 54 at-bats and a paltry .491 OPS over that span, which has dropped his average below .238 for the first time this year. For context, he's never finished below .270 for a season. 

So how do the Nats handle this? They've already tried moving Harper to the cleanup spot, and later bumped him up to the two-hole. Neither move has worked so far. So it looks like all they can do is keep putting him in the lineup and hope that his bat can somehow reignite during the stretch run.   

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 4 GP, 2.2 IP, 1-2, 6 ER, BS

It seems fairly obvious that the Nats might have second thoughts about their closer. That’ll happen after someone allows the game-winning runs to score in consecutive losses, as Papelbon did earlier this week.

But even if the Nats openly admit they have an issue at the back end of the bullpen, then what?  

Well, in a weird way, Papelbon’s struggles have actually come at a fortuitous time. With the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the Nats still have time to acquire an additional ninth-inning option. The problem is that the top arms that are available like New York Yankees setup man Andrew Miller or Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis will cost prospects that the Nats are unlikely willing to part with. 

In the meantime, the club still needs Papelbon to rebound down the stretch — whether that's in the closer role or not.