The heavy expectations for Bryce Harper are now on display. As a megastar in baseball, this is his chance to lift the Nats on his shoulders and carry the team through this rough spot.
Yes, that is hyperbole. Still, if he wants to earn the highest salary in the history of the game, these are the series when he can assert quiet leadership.
The opening week of the season was good for Harper. His swing looks good. He is taking pitches and clobbered two home runs on Opening Day. Drawing four walks and six hits, the refined approach taken this spring carried into the regular season.
With Turner not expected back until Wednesday at the earliest, Harper will not have as many chances to drive in runs. Instead, he must continue his good eye and get on base for Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman. A home run or two would not hurt the cause.
His steady presence is important because the offense now has a heavier eight to carry. In order to win, they simply must score enough to take the pressure off the bullpen.
Against the Cardinals, Harper has struggled over the years. In 30 career games, he is hitting .248 with four home runs and 13 RBI. Only the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers held him to a lower OPS than the .764 mark against St. Louis over a 20-game spread.