The Washington Nationals won another series, that’s nine in a row if you are keeping track at home, after beating the Chicago Cubs in the series finale last night 3-0.
I am running out of superlatives to describe how well this team is playing now. After giving a game away two nights ago on sloppy play, the Nationals bounced back in a big way riding Max Scherzer‘s great seven inning outing. There are many accolades to pass out tonight, but let’s start with the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game in the National League right now: Bryce Harper.
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I am also running out of superlatives to describe Bryce, but here is a new one: surprised. As in, I am surprised he is not getting a free pass every time he comes to the plate. He has to be the toughest out in the majors right now and I noticed that he is starting to get the respect he deserves from home plate umpires. As Nats’ play-by-play announcer on MASN Bob Carpenter tends to say, if it is not a strike, Bryce Harper doesn’t swing and I think he is getting the benefit of the doubt on some of these borderline pitches just based on reputation.
Oh, I forgot to mention he hit another home run. Unlike his first homer at Wrigley this year, this one was a no-doubter, opposite-field blast off Jon Lester in the sixth to bring him even with Nelson Cruz for the league lead at 18. There is no other way to describe Bryce other than the best player in baseball right now.
Another superlative I have used in the past to describe this time applies to Max Scherzer again tonight: unfair. It is almost unfair the Nationals trot out the best hitter in the game the same night they trot out the best pitcher in the game.
Scherzer was almost unhittable last night as he went seven shutout innings and struck out 13 batters to get his sixth win of the season. Max is a bulldog on the mound and his attitude will strikeout more hitters than his stuff. He wants the ball in big time situations and he seems to have another gear when he gets into a jam. His ability to reach back and throw 98 when needed along with his excellent command and never-say-die attitude proved to much for the Cubs’ hitters last night.
After Max’s seven shutdown innings, the Cubs were happy to face anyone else but Scherzer from the Nats’ bullpen and Matt Grace almost gave this game away in the eighth after giving up a double and hitting a batter. Fortunately for the Nationals, Casey Janssen is healthy and came in during an high-leverage situation with no outs and two on to face Kris Bryant. Janssen is a grizzled veteran and was able to get Bryatn to pop out and made an excellent play on a bunt by Dexter Fowler to help close out the inning.
The rookies, like Matt Grace, held their own to start the season in the bullpen, but it is nice to have Casey Janssen back off the DL to shore up the eighth inning and he ended up with the real save tonight.
The Nationals have the day off and then travel to Cincinnati where they hope to continue their winning ways in another three game series against the Reds.