The Cubs’ game plan was extremely obvious when the Nats visited Wrigley Field last May: do not let Bryce Harper do any damage. Harper walked 13 times in the four-game set, including six times in the series finale.
Although it was frustrating for Nats fans, it was an effective strategy for the Cubs; they swept the series and Harper never looked the same in 2016. It is worth noting that Harper was followed by Zimmerman last season, who went 2-for-19 in that series. Zimmerman is a much improved player this year, so the Cubs may have to pitch to Harper.
Harper has returned to form this season, batting .315 with 18 homers in 68 games. Although he has slowed down a bit over the last month, he is still one of the most dangerous hitters in the league.
Harper has performed well against the Cubs throughout his career, batting .263 with five homers in 26 games. The stat that really stands out is his .469 on-base percentage against the Cubs. While this can be largely attributed to his record-setting series last May, it is an incredible stat. Of the teams that he has played at least ten games against, his on-base percentage against the Cubs in second-highest, behind only the Padres.
Harper is a career .240 hitter against the four probable starters for this series (Eddie Butler, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Jon Lester). However, that is heavily weighed down by a career 0-for-9 against Lackey. Harper is a .375 hitter against the other three probable starters combined. Perhaps Harper could get a much-needed day off against Lackey; he has started every game since June 4.
It will be interesting to see how Harper fares against the defending champs and how they choose to pitch against him, that is, if they choose to pitch to him at all.