Nationals Stock Watch: Bryce Harper returning to form

Nationals Stock Watch: Bryce Harper returning to form
September 4, 2014, 12:00 pm
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(Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports)

We take a look at the Nationals' past week, at a glance:

Record: 4-3
Team slash: .230/.286/.482
Team ERA:  3.16
Runs per game:  4.83


Bryce Harper, LF: .379 AVG/ 4 HR/ 1.212 OPS


So um, perhaps he doesn't need to be sent down to the minors after all. During a week in which the Nationals' lineup played "Home Run Derby" in key series against the Mariners and Dodgers, it was Harper who led the way with four dingers in six games. It was clear during the latter part of August that his power stroke was slowly starting to return, but the past few games have shown it might be all the way back. The best part is that he's now hitting for both average and power; with a trio of three-hit games this week, Harper has raised his season average up over .270 for the first time since July 22nd. It's a welcome sight for Nats fans, who hope to see Harper return to form just in time for October.
Denard Span, CF: .321 AVG/ 3 HR/ 5 RBI


When Span is at his best, he's usually an on-base machine and a terror on the base paths -- not exactly the profile of a slugger. But this week, the Nats' center fielder got into the act along with the rest of the lineup as he launched three home runs, including two in Monday's 6-4 victory over the Dodgers. With everything he's given the team lately, adding power to his repertoire would only be a bonus at this point. It's kind of amazing how far Span has come in one season: From questions about his status as the leadoff man to Harper publicly championing a Span-less lineup to now being considered one of the team's best players since the All-Star break, the 30-year-old veteran has become the player Mike Rizzo envisioned he'd be when the Nats dealt for him in November of 2012.
Jayson Werth, RF: 3 HR/ 6 RBI/ 1.177 OPS


That must have been a heck of a cortisone shot Werth took a few weeks ago, because it seems like he's been on fire ever since. For the second straight week, Werth has found himself in the middle of rallies and has come up big nearly every time. He had a huge series in Seattle, notching a pair of homers that in victories against a Mariners pitching staff known for keeping the ball in the yard. If he stays on this pace, he'll have his second consecutive 20 homer, 80 RBI season with the Nats.
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-0/ 7.2 IP/ 8 K


What a big time outing by Strasburg in Seattle. Yes, the Mariners offense isn't lighting the world on fire, and Safeco Field is considered a pitcher's haven. Regardless, it was a road start (he's usually struggled in those) against a playoff-caliber team and the 26-year-old righty was brilliant. He had fantastic fastball command -- touching 97 mph at times -- and his breaking pitches fell off the table to fool hitters in two-strike counts. He went deep into the game, leaving with two outs in the eighth inning after striking out eight and walking none en route to his 11th victory of the season. Matt Williams was so impressed that he told reporters afterward it was Strasburg's best outing of the season. Given the circumstances, it's pretty hard to disagree.



Rafael Soriano, RP: BS/ 4.50 ERA/ 2.25 WHIP


Sure, dinging Soriano for the blown save in Wednesday's marathon victory might be a little unfair, as Werth dropped what should have been the game-ending out in the ninth inning. That being said, the tying run scored because Soriano walked Andre Ethier two batters earlier. And that's what's been Soriano's problem recently -- too many base runners allowed. In his last four outings, he's given up three runs on seven hits and two walks. Luckily, it didn't come back to haunt him in those games, as the Nats wound up winning each time. But the closer can't continually walk the tightrope against playoff teams and expect to get out of every situation unscathed. At some point it'll come back to bite you.