Quick Links

Harper hits D.C.

750082.png

Harper hits D.C.

Bryce Harper didn't think he'd be stepping onto the field at Nationals Park quite this soon. But he knew the day would be coming sometime soon, so he's had plenty of time to contemplate what it will be like.

"I'm really excited," he said. "Very, very excited. It's going to be a fun time."

Break out your fauxhawk wigs, your eye black and your No. 34 jerseys, because the fun starts tonight when Harper makes his D.C. debut as the Nationals open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.

Harper is expected to again be in manager Davey Johnson's lineup, starting in left field against Arizona right-hander Trevor Cahill. And if the first two games of the his career are an indication of things to come, don't be surprised if the 19-year-old is the center of attention again.

Harper's imprint was all over both weekend games at Dodger Stadium. His double, sacrifice fly and pinpoint throw to the plate helped put the Nationals in position to win Saturday night until reliever Henry Rodriguez blew the save in the ninth. And his wall-crashing catch on Sunday kept things close and allowed him to step to the plate in the ninth with a chance to tie the game.

Through it all, Harper maintained a level of composure befitting a player with far more big-league service time than two days. He again insisted he wasn't nervous to be thrown into the fire like that.

"No, not much," he said. "Like I said, I'm trying to stay as calm as I can when I go out there. We've got a great ballclub, great veteran guys that really help me out and just talk to me about the game and whatnot throughout the whole game. It's a lot of fun being out there. It's exciting for me."

Harper's performance and veteran approach left some at Dodger Stadium wondering if his first stint with the Nationals might actually extend longer than the club might have intended when it first promoted him.

In announcing the surprising move on Friday, general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged Harper might only stick around until Ryan Zimmerman returns from the disabled list (the third baseman is eligible to come back as soon as Sunday). Even if his fate isn't tied to Zimmerman's, Harper might not perform at a level consistent enough to merit his long-term stay in Washington ... yet.

"This may not be his breakout moment," Rizzo said. "Like Mike Trout with the Angels, there could be a step sideways to take a leap forward."

Trout, universally regarded as one of baseball's top two prospects along with Harper, made his debut for the Angels last summer at 19 but was sent back to Class AA after only three weeks and a .163 batting average. He returned to finish out the season but didn't break camp with Los Angeles this spring.

Despite the obvious comparisons between the two, Harper does find himself in a different situation. In this case, the Nationals desperately need offensive help, especially in left field where Michael Morse's replacements were hitting a combined .093 with four RBI before Harper arrived.

Though it's only been two games, Harper showed a more advanced approach at the plate than plenty of more experienced teammates have displayed this season.

Which might just mean we might just be seeing a lot more of Bryce Harper in Washington this summer.

Quick Links

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 19, 2014, the San Diego Padres traded pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later -- it would be Trea Turner -- to the Washington Nationals in a three-team deal that included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since that trade, the Padres have posted a record of 160-215 while the Nationals are 208-166 after they won 3-0 Saturday as Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high 15 batters in seven innings and the Washington staff fanned 17.

As a reminder of what could have been, Ross (2-0, 5.32) makes the start Sunday against San Diego right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) in the finale of the three-game series at Nationals Park.

First-place Washington is 30-18 while last-place San Diego is 18-33.

Ross was drafted by the Padres in the first round out of his California high school in 2011. Ross is 2-0 in his career against San Diego with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Last year, he went six innings and allowed six hits and three earned runs in a win against the Padres.

"I was not around Joe at all," said Andy Green, in his second year as the San Diego manager. "We saw him last year; he is a sinkerballer."

The Padres did acquire All-Star first baseman Wil Myers in the trade.

The Nationals have scored a record 62 runs in the four starts made this year by Ross, more than any other pitcher has received in his first four starts of a season. That included a 23-5 victory at home April 30 against the New York Mets and a 10-1 win Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.

Ross, who broke into the majors with the Nationals in 2015, was in the rotation last season and made 19 starts before going on the disabled list. He was in line to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

Chacin is 3-2 in six starts against Washington and has a 3.09 ERA. He has made three career starts at Nationals Park and is 1-1 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing only one run in 20 innings.

The Nationals played their second game in a row Saturday without second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was ill.

Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, filling in for manager Dusty Baker, said before the game that Murphy was ill. Murphy entered the day hitting .316 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

"He's available. This is Dusty's theory: Usually when somebody comes in and says, 'I'm ready,' then he usually gives him one more day. But he's available," Speier told reporters before the game.

Murphy entered Saturday seventh in the National League in hits with 56, just ahead of teammate Bryce Harper (55). Murphy was also among the league leaders in multi-hit games and road batting average.

Washington shortstop Turner, drafted by the Padres in the first round out of North Carolina State, had two hits, including a homer, Friday and was 1-for-4 Saturday.

Another hot hitter for Washington is center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who hit a homer for the second day in a row Saturday and has four homers in his last 14 games.

"I'm looking for my pitch and staying in my zone," Taylor said. "I'm not trying to do too much."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres

Quick Links

Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres

Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg downplayed any notion that starting pitchers on the same team attempt to top each other. On the mound one day after Max Scherzer overwhelmed the San Diego Padres, the right-hander did just that.

Strasburg dominated San Diego with a career-high 15 strikeouts while allowing three hits over seven innings as the Washington Nationals beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday.

Strasburg (6-1) singled and scored Washington's first run on Bryce Harper's RBI fielder's choice grounder in the third inning. Michael A. Taylor hit a two-run homer for the second consecutive game.

San Diego's lineup offered little resistance against Strasburg the day after Scherzer struck out 13 in Washington's 5-1 win.

"Piece of cake, huh?" cracked Chris Speier, who is serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in California.

San Diego had six hits and struck out 31 times -- 17 Saturday -- in the two losses.

"I know when you have those type of combinations," Speier said of Strasburg and Scherzer, "they feed off each other. There's a little competitiveness within the starting pitchers that is very healthy. . It's win-win for us."

With four pitches working, Strasburg struck out the side in the third and sixth and had at least two in each of the first six innings. His single matched the Padres' hit total through five innings.

Strasburg previously struck out 14 batters twice including his Major League debut on June 8, 2010. He set a personal best by setting down Franchy Cordero in the seventh.

"It's pretty cool, but there's another game 5, 6 days from now," said the low-key pitcher. "Maybe I'll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow."

The San Diego native is 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA for his career against his hometown team.

Matt Albers pitched the eighth and Koda Glover the ninth for his fifth save.

Clayton Richard (3-6) followed up his complete-game victory over the Diamondbacks on May 21 by allowing three runs and 10 hits over six innings.

One out after Anthony Rendon's leadoff single in the sixth, Taylor drove a pitch over the wall in center field for his fourth homer of the season.

"You stay in a one-run game, momentum's different," a frustrated Richard stated. "We have a different attitude, it changes a lot of things."

Washington has won two straight and five of six.

San Diego is 5-13 since May 9.

San Diego loaded the bases with one out in the first following a single, a throwing error by first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Cory Spangenberg's four-pitch walk. Strasburg ended the threat by striking out Austin Hedges on three pitches.

The Padres had two singles in the sixth, but Strasburg recorded strikeouts for the final two outs.

"Sometimes with the best pitchers in the game if you don't get them in the first three innings they get harder and harder to get to," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We had our chance in the first we didn't take advantage of it."

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals players visit local little league baseball teams