Jun 6, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) hits a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. The Chicago Cubs won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Positives: Harper’s Still Harper, Rendon’s Just Getting Started and the Mets Are Still the Mets
The end of yesterday’s game showed why there is no reason to panic about the Nationals, despite the team’s recent slump. While the Nationals’ comeback fell two runs short, Harper’s homer was a reminder of a simple fact that takes a lot of pressure off of the ball club: good things happen when the best player in baseball is on your side.
Had Harper’s homer come a couple of weeks ago (as many did), when seemingly everything was going the Nationals’ way, it might’ve started a ninth-inning rally. Or, it might’ve come earlier in the game with runners on base. But baseball isn’t a game of hypotheticals; it’s a game of projections and endurance. And with a healthy Harper in the lineup all season long, the possibilities are endless for the Nationals’ offense.
Yesterday’s homer was the 19th of the season for Harper, which is good for first in the major leagues and falls just three short of his career-high. Harper is at or near the top of the National League in almost every major offensive category and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Whereas the Nationals have struggled over the last 7 games, Harper has continued to dominate—hitting .364 with three RBIs and six walks over 22 at-bats. The Nationals’ offense may be struggling, but with Harper in the lineup and setting a high standard, you have to believe the team can overcome its offensive slump.
Harper, of course, isn’t the only bright spot in the lineup. Anthony Rendon is back from the disabled list, and once he gets some at-bats under his belt this season, he’ll be a huge boost for the offense. Rendon was one of the team’s best hitters last season, and if he stays healthy, he and Harper can lead the Nationals to another NL East title.
Another positive to take from yesterday is that the Mets lost again. It seems as if every time the Nationals lose a tough game, the Mets lose as well. In fact, the Mets have lost six of their last 10 games, which has allowed the Nationals to maintain their slim first-place cushion.
Of course, the Nationals can’t survive the whole season hoping that the other teams in the division fall flat. Washington has to return to its winning ways, and as the Nationals proved last month, the team definitely has what it takes to do just that. Hopefully for the Nationals, yesterday’s loss and the ones that came before it will be a thing of the past and the team can put an end to its slump sooner, rather than later.