When going against a bonafide ace like Clayton Kershaw, you have to find any small advantage you can get.
In the case of Dusty Baker and the Nationals, that means exploiting what they believe to be a small weakness he has when trying to hold baserunners. The Nats’ skipper told reporters before Game 1 of the NL Division Series that he believes the umpires need to watch Kershaw’s delivery from the stretch closely.
“Quite frankly, I’m hoping that the umpires…might call a balk or two on him,” Baker said. “Because he kind of rolls through the set position, which they don’t call.”
Once a manager throws that out there, of course, it’s bound to get to the other team. When Los Angeles skipper Dave Roberts was given a chance to respond to Baker’s comments, he countered by throwing out names of Nats pitchers who he thought balked without punishment.
Perhaps pregame chatter about balks won’t amount to much after first pitch, and it was all said in good fun. But it could be something to watch — once the Nats find a way to get on base against Kershaw, that is.
“I heard that really upsets him if they do call one," Baker said. "So I’m hoping that they call maybe a couple of them.”
If you've understandably been caught up with the Capitals and Wizards in their respective playoff series, you might not be aware of just how hot Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is right now. Fresh off a three-game sweep of the rival Mets in New York, Harper was named National League Player of the Week.
For the whole week, Harper hit .550 (11-for-20) with four doubles, three home runs, seven RBI, seven walks and 10 runs scored.
He is now leading all of baseball in batting average (.400), he's tied for second in homers (7), and he's alone in second in RBI (20). He's also amassed a blistering 1.340 OPS through the team's first 18 games.
Harper's biggest game of the past week came in Atlanta when he went yard twice, with his second homer being a grand slam. He finished the game 4-for-4 with two homers, one double, five RBI, one walk and four runs scored.
With Harper's injuries from last season behind him (even though he won't completely admit to being hurt), the Nationals' right fielder is back to, or even better than, his 2015 form that ended with his first career MVP award. During that season Harper took home player of the week honors three times.
The Nationals as a team have the best record in baseball at 13-5, and already have a three-game lead in the NL East.
Related: MLB Power Rankings
DENVER (AP) -- Charlie Blackmon hit a two-run homer in the seventh, Colorado's lights-out bullpen threw three-plus scoreless innings and the Colorado Rockies beat Washington 8-4 on Monday night, ending the Nationals' seven-game winning streak.
Trailing 4-3, Blackmon lined a hanging slider from lefty Enny Romero (1-1) into the right-field stands. It was Blackmon's sixth homer of the season and followed a pinch-hit double from Pat Valaika -- his first hit of the season.
The Rockies' relievers came through once again after starter Tyler Anderson wore down. Carlos Estevez (2-0) got four outs and Adam Ottavino threw an effective eighth. Greg Holland pitched the ninth in a non-save situation after the Rockies added three insurance runs in the eighth. He got pinch-hitter Bryce Harper to ground out to end the game.
The Rockies' bullpen is now 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA, which is tops in the NL.
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