More milestones for Harper

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More milestones for Harper

PHILADELPHIA -- If it seems like Bryce Harper is accomplishing something every couple of days few, if any, teenagers have ever accomplished ... well, it's true.

Just about every positive thing Harper has done on the field in the last couple of weeks has carried the 19-year-old over a new threshold, further cemented his status as one of the best players in his age group ever to perform in the major leagues.

And Harper was up to his old tricks again last night during the Nationals' 8-4 win over the Phillies. Let's recap...

With his first-inning blast into the stands in deep left-center, Harper recorded his 20th home run. The only teenager ever to hit more, of course, was Tony Conigliaro for the 1964 Red Sox.

Asked about getting No. 20, Harper responded: "I like those 93 runs a lot better."

Ah, yes. By crossing the plate on his home run trot, Harper recorded his 93rd run of the season. The only teenager ever to score more runs: Buddy Lewis of the 1936 Senators, who finished with 100.

So, would reaching the century mark in runs scored mean something for Harper?

"Absolutely," he said. "Being on base for all the guys to drive me in, just being key in that respect and getting the momentum going early, doing things on the basepaths, I think that's huge."

Harper obviously takes a lot of pride in his baserunning, so surely he was fired up to notch his 17th stolen base last night. That makes him the first teenager ever in the 17-17 Club (17 homers, 17 steals). Three more stolen bases over the season's final seven games, and Harper obviously would become the first-ever teenager in the 20-20 club.

Pretty amazing stuff, right?

"No, nothing really amazes me with him," teammate Ian Desmond said. "Regardless of all the home runs, the great throws, things like that, he impacts the baseball game every single day, whether it's on the basepaths, everything. Nothing surprises me with him. I think he's got the brightest future, and he's a good kid. That makes it so much better."

How Wilson Ramos' daughter helped key his 4-RBI day in Nats' win

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How Wilson Ramos' daughter helped key his 4-RBI day in Nats' win

Of all the great uses for iPads, from business to education to watching movies on flights, many parents would argue there is no better utility for the Apple product than keeping children entertained.

Kids absolutely love them. The lights, the sounds, the games, the pictures. It's sensory overload and they'll entertain - and often keep quiet - a child for up to hours at a time.

For Wilson Ramos this weekend, it went much further than that. His young daughter - who turns two later this year - was watching cartoons on his iPad on Saturday night when she stumbled across a highlight video of him hitting a home run against the Chicago Cubs on May 6 at Wrigley Field. 

"For some reason, she was pointing it out and saying, ‘Daddy, daddy!’ Kinda like saying this is you," Ramos said through an interpreter after Sunday's 10-2 win over the Cardinals.

"For whatever reason, today I took that same approach like I did back then, nice and relaxed. And it worked out."

Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu may have some competition, because Ramos' daughter was on to something, whether intentionally or not. 

The Nats catcher reached base four times on Sunday with three hits - including a two-run homer - and a walk. It was the fifth time in 40 games this season that he's been on base four times.

Ramos' homer came in the eighth inning off Cardinals reliever Tyler Lyons. It was Ramos' sixth home run of the season and his fourth in the month of May. Ramos is now batting .336 this season to lead all MLB catchers. That number ranks ninth in all of baseball and second on the Nationals behind only Daniel Murphy.

Ramos' other big hit Sunday was a two-RBI single in the fourth inning against Cardinals starter Michael Wacha. He took a 94 mile per hour fastball the other way to right field to score Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman and put the Nationals up 3-1 at the time.

It was yet another game this season where Ramos has helped lead the way on offense. The 28-year-old backstop has - perhaps quietly - been one of the key cogs for the Nationals so far this season.

Some of it has to do with health, as well as the LASIK surgery he had during spring training. But don't forget his daughter.

"For some reason she’s learned how to play with it and look up certain files," Ramos said. "I’m going to try to put the same things on, little cartoons for her, and hopefully she takes it away and swipes to my at-bats and hopefully they’re good ones."

Stats you need to know in advance of Nationals' road trip

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Stats you need to know in advance of Nationals' road trip

BY RICH GOLDBERG (@GoldyStats)

After dismantling the Cardinals 10-2 in the series finale on Sunday, the Nationals hit the road for a nine-game road trip that will see them take on their N.L. East rival Philadelphia Phillies, the N.L. Central cellar-dwelling Cincinnati Reds and the suddenly ice-cold Chicago White Sox.

CSN researcher Rich Goldberg details the five stats you need to know before the Nats start June off on the road.

RELATED: CONSISTENCY KEY TO STRASBURG'S HISTORIC START

1. Bryce Harper has a 6-game home run streak at Philadelphia.

The only other visiting player to do that in Philadelphia? Hall of Famer Ernie Banks back in 1955.

 

2. Wilson Ramos is hitting .336 and leads all MLB catchers.

The previous 5 seasons, Ramos batted .270, .246, .250, .265 and .252 through the end of May.

 

3. Daniel Murphy has a career .406 batting average (26 for 64) at Great American Ballpark.

That is Murphy’s highest BA at any ballpark with a minimum of 4 games played.

 

4. Tanner Roark is 1-4 with a 8.27 career ERA in 5 road games (4 starts) at Philadelphia.

Roark has the fifth worst ERA by a visiting player at Citizens Bank Park, with a minimum of 4 starts. Roark pitches Monday against the Phillies.

 

5. Stephen Strasburg is the first pitcher in Nationals/Expos history to begin a season 9-0 and he’s 9 strikeouts away from his 1000th career K.

Strasburg is scheduled to start Saturday against the Reds.

Nats' Strasburg's consistency continues with franchise-best 9-0 start

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Nats' Strasburg's consistency continues with franchise-best 9-0 start

Exactly when Stephen Strasburg reached a turning point over the last nine or so months depends on whom you ask and where you look. 

Based solely on the numbers, Strasburg has been a different pitcher ever since he returned from the disabled list last August. In his 21 outings since Aug. 8, 2015, Strasburg is 15-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 182 strikeouts and 28 walks in 140 innings pitched.

For Jayson Werth, there was a noticeable change in Strasburg this spring training.

"He came in and he just had a good feel to him. He looked a little bigger, like he was in real good shape. He was talking a lot, which is always a good sign from him. He doesn’t always say too much," Werth said. 

"It just kind of felt like he was going to have a big year. So far, so good. He’s looked great. Obviously, I think the contract has helped… free agency can mess with some guys’ heads sometimes. He’s not going to have to deal with that."

For batterymate Wilson Ramos, the change in Strasburg is in the details. It's in his health and the way he works around trouble during his starts.

"He’s got a different mindset," Ramos said through an interpreter. "I know in the past his injuries have affected his performance out there. He’s always been a great starter for us. But before this year, it seemed like when he gets behind a run or two his morale would drop. This year, he stays optimistic out there and keeps attacking hitters no matter if he gives up a run or two. He’s very aggressive and it’s shown. He’s doing a great job for us out there."

Whatever the reason or the timing, Strasburg has found a new level of consistency this year, as the Nationals have won all 11 of his starts and at a perfect 9-0, he has the best record to begin a season in franchise history. That bests the 8-0 start for Pedro Martinez back in 1997 when he was with the Expos.

All of Strasburg's last 15 outings have resulted in a Nationals victory. This season he's gone at least six innings in all of his starts and only three times has he allowed more than two runs.

In Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals, Strasburg did what he's become increasingly prone to do. He allowed just one run across six innings and scattered six hits and two walks. The lone run came on a Brandon Moss homer in the fourth inning and that was the only extra-base hit he allowed on the day.

Almost every time the Cardinals threatened, he quickly stopped the bleeding and got the Nationals' defense off the field. 

"He's certainly earning his money," manager Dusty Baker said. "This is big for him, for him and us. He's been trying to figure out probably for a couple years why he's not a big winner because he has the stuff to be a big winner."

Becoming a 'big winner' requires some help, of course, and Strasburg is getting plenty of it. In his 11 starts this season the Nationals are averaging seven runs per game. 

That will take the pressure off.

"The guys swung the bats good today. I was just happy to give them a chance," Strasburg said.