Even Max Scherzer is not capable of winning a game if his team does not score him any runs. Such was his fate in his last 2 starts where he held the opponents to just 2-runs and lost the games by identical scores of 2-to-0. He can commiserate with Gio, Tanner, and Stras who all were losers on the wrong end of shutouts in the month of June. The Nationals offense seemed to have clicked but has been in this feast or famine offense the last week and a half. We all know Max Scherzer is capable of shutting out his opponents, but he still needs run support to win.
Today, we expect Nationals manager Dave Martinez to produce another line-up configuration to try and generate some offense while also keeping his defense near the best he can. Sure, he could move Daniel Murphy to 2nd base and put Mark Reynolds at first base to generate some extra offense but is the juice worth the squeeze? You have trade-offs whenever you tinker with that fine balance of offense and defense.
Speaking of offense and defense, Fangraphs WAR now has the struggling Bryce Harper at a +0.9 WAR and he has not been at those levels since the second week of the season.
Baseball’s process is a funny thing. Slumps can disappear in an instant. Hot streaks can start at any time. The law of averages seem to support the back of the baseball card. That all fares well for Bryce Harper who is not in age regression or injured. In separate interviews yesterday, both Mike Rizzo and Dave Martinez both reiterated that Bryce Harper is healthy. They have used terms like “funk” and “slump”, and they have spoken about mechanics and balance and most of all they have been extremely supportive — and all of this for a player who could no longer be a Washington National after the season ends. You have to be impressed with the loyalty and dedication shown to Bryce Harper, but is it reciprocated? When Stephen Strasburg was reaching his final year he extended with the Nationals, and loyalty was a factor. It was a big day for the franchise when Strasburg signed his contract extension.
Some of compared Harper’s funk to Ian Desmond‘s in his “walk year.” It sure does feel that way, but Harper started his season “en fuego” and maybe it is just a combination of things. Harper has never seemed to be a person who has allowed much to bother him except for injuries, and again, we have been told he is healthy.
“Yeah, I mean I don’t really think about that stuff” Harper said in a February 2016 interview after his MVP season. “I just try to play the years out and do everything I can to help my team win. But don’t sell me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me, so don’t do that. [laughs] I’m looking forward to just playing this year, just looking forward to playing the next couple years. And I think all that stuff will play out.”
“I mean, I’ve got three years to play [for the Nationals under his contract]. I’ve got three years to do everything I can to play this game. The $400 million or whatever everybody was talking about, money, you can’t put a limit on players. You can’t put a limit on what they do. You can’t put a limit on what they do. If that’s on the field, off the field, everything they do. Everybody says the sky’s the limit. But we’ve been on the moon.”
The healthy Harper could be facing the struggling Kevin Gausman tonight. Harper is a career .429 hitter against Gausman. Well, small sample sizes and current trends don’t mean much as Harper until last night was hitting yesterday’s starter Andrew Cashner at .500+ so we will see if tonight is the night for Harper if he is indeed in the line-up.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN; MLB App out-of-market
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice:
- Bryce Harper RF
- Trea Turner SS
- Anthony Rendon 3B
- Juan Soto LF
- Mark Reynolds 1B
- Michael A. Taylor CF
- Wilmer Difo 2B
- Pedro Severino C
- Max Scherzer RHP