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Looking at Harper and the Rookie of the Year race

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Looking at Harper and the Rookie of the Year race

As the MLB playoff race began to heat up after the All-Star break, and as Bryce Harper cooled down, comparing Harper and fellow rookie Mike Trout faded away as the seasons biggest storyline. Trout ascended to a prime MVP candidate and Harper started looking like the 19-year-old rookie that he was.

But though Trout has continued to outpace Harper over the course of the entire season, recently it has in fact been Harper with the better numbers. Over the last month the Nationals outfielder has outplayed Trout in nearly every statistical category, including batting average and runs.

Take a look at their statistical splits over the last 28 days:

Harper (831 to 927)

25 G - .305 BA - .988 OPS 6 HR 23 R 13 RBI - 4 3B 4 SB

Trout (831 to 926)

24 G - .247 BA - .750 OPS 3 HR 18 R 4 RBI 0 3B 5 SB

Notice Harpers batting average is over .50 points better and his OPS is higher by more than .200. Not only are the differences significant, but so is the timing. Both players bat at the top of the order on teams in playoff races with the Nats looking for a division title and the Angels chasing the wild card.

Harper may not be in consideration for the National League MVP award, as Trout will be in the A.L., but he has perhaps turned into a favorite for N.L. Rookie of the Year. The two other players most consider to have a chance are Todd Frazier (26 years old) of the Reds and Wade Miley (25 years old) of the Diamondbacks. Frazier is the easiest to compare directly as a position player, but his stats just dont stack up.

Harper

133 G - .264 BA - .799 OPS 21 HR 94 R 58 RBI 9 3B 17 SB

Frazier

123 G - .278 BA - .845 OPS 19 HR 55 R 65 RBI 6 3B 3 SB

Harper has more homers, 14 more stolen bases, and nearly 40 more runs scored than Frazier does. Both players are on first place teams, but Harper has made more of an impact on his teams success.

Miley has been the favorite for the award for much of the season after going 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA in the first half. But since being named an All-Star he has gone 7-6 with a 3.65 ERA. His numbers still look good for a rookie with a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA in 187.0 innings, but Harper has contributed to a much better team. The Diamondbacks are a .500 club, but won't be participating in the playoffs.

One other player that could have a say is Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario. Rosario has come on strong in September and leads all rookies in homers (27) and RBI (70). He does, however, play on the second worst team in the majors and has not displayed the variety of tools Harper has shown. Harper has been one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and also ranks second among N.L. rookies in stolen bases.

It could come down to Harper and Miley who likely has one more start before the season comes to a close. The Nationals have six games left on their schedule so Harper will need to continue his surge. But whether he earns the award or not, his pick up in play couldnt have come at a better time for Washington.

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Nats get another chance to clinch NL East title in Pittsburgh

Nats get another chance to clinch NL East title in Pittsburgh

Nats (89-64) vs. Pirates (77-76) at PNC Park

With the magic number to clinch a division title still at two, the Nationals will again try to punch their ticket to the postseason Saturday night at PNC Park. Like Friday night, they'll need to defeat the Pirates and hope for a New York Mets loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in order to secure the NL East championship. 

The Nats will send Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) to the mound for his second start since he returned from the disabled list. He was limited to just three innings in his previous outing, so it will be important to see how far he gets stretched out against the Pirates. After all, the Nats are in desperate need to identify their third starter for the playoffs, and Ross has a good shot of being that guy if he proves he's capable down the stretch. 

The lineup will be the same as Friday night's, with Daniel Murphy shut down for the weekend with a left buttocks strain. Stephen Drew will take over at second base. 

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Pirates - Ivan Nova

NATS 

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
2B Stephen Drew
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Joe Ross

PIRATES

TBA

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS AND SCORES

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Extra-inning loss puts the Nats NL East celebration on hold

Extra-inning loss puts the Nats NL East celebration on hold

The Nationals were hoping that Friday night would be the moment they could finally pop champagne in celebration of an NL East title. All they had to do was win and hope for a New York Mets loss.

Neither happened. As a result, the Nats’ magic number remains at two entering Saturday.

Here are a few takeaways from Friday night's game: 

Melancon’s first blown save: Entering Friday, Mark Melancon was a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities as the Nats’ closer. And as the baseball gods would have it, his first blown save with Washington comes against his former Pittsburgh teammates. Of the four blown saves Melancon’s had all season, one is against the Nats (when he was still with the Pirates), and the other against the Pirates. Baseball is a funny game.   

Turner still learning center field: Though Trea Turner has done just about everything in his short time in the big leagues, he’s still a work in progress as a center fielder. That inexperience bit the Nats in a critical moment on Friday night. With Washington clinging to a 5-4 ninth-inning lead with two outs and a man on, the Pirates’ Sean Rodriguez drilled a Melancon fastball to left-center. Turner didn’t appear to get a great jump after contact, and and got to the ball a tad late. He lunged, but it landed over his head, allowing the tying run to score. It's moments like those that make one wonder if Dusty Baker might consider realigning his defense late in games come October.

Zim reaches milestone: With his run-scoring double in the second inning, Zimmerman notched career RBI No. 1500. The accomplishment is one of the bright spots in an otherwise down season for the veteran first baseman. Though he’s struggled for most of 2016, the Nats are hoping he heats up as the playoffs begin. Case in point: he’s got hits in seven of his last nine games.

Ramos heating up? After an early late-August and early-September swoon, it appears Ramos has found his power stroke once again. He now has six extra-base hits in his last eight games. With the offense scuffling a bit of late, the Nats need Ramos to return to his early-season form. 

Up next: The Nats will look to wrap up the division Saturday night as they send Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) to the hill to oppose Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.19 ERA).