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Harper deals with losing: ‘I’ve never lost’

Aug 24, 2013, 11:15 AM EDT

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At 64-64 through 128 games, and with over a month left in the season, the Nationals have plenty of time to make a run and finish with a winning record. But just topping the .500 mark isn’t enough to call this year a success, especially given preseason expectations to win a World Series.

As a result, Bryce Harper is dealing with life on a struggling team, really for the first time ever. His junior travel team won two national titles, his high school team dominated and his college team went 52-16 the only year he played.

Harper admits it is a bit different going to the ballpark every day when you’re not in the thick of a division race.

“Mentally it’s grinding because we’re not winning right now,” Harper told Mark Zuckerman in their weekly sit-down on Wednesday.

“It’s kind of tough. But you just gotta go in every single night and try to play hard. Try to win ballgames. Especially late because we want to try and have the best last month.”

Being on the .500 Nationals is as close as Harper’s been to playing on a losing team. He is so used to winning, he can’t even remember being on a team that wasn’t good.

“Earlier in my career, when I was younger? We never lost,” he said. “We were the best team in the country. We never lost, ever. I’ve never been on a losing team or anything like that. It’s never been tough or anything like that. I’ve never lost, ever.”

Harper’s had his own ups and downs this season. After beginning the year with a scorching start in April, he hasn’t been the same player in the months since. He ran into walls in Atlanta and Los Angeles back in May, causing bursitis in his left knee, and spent five weeks on the disabled list.

Despite returning from the DL on July 1, Harper still feels the effects of his knee. He may not be always playing in pain, but his timing and feel at the plate still aren’t where he would like them to be.

“My first month was pretty dang good,” he said. “It was kind of tough after I hit the wall, it kind of went downhill from there. I haven’t felt as strong everyday. I’ve been struggling a little bit, trying to get into rhythm again and trying to do things the right way.”

Harper remains in the Nats’ lineup on a daily basis as they move through the last week of August. The Nationals have 34 games remaining and Harper hopes to finish the year strong.

“We still got a month left, so we’re going to keep trying, keep grinding, and see where we’re at at the end.”

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 79 15.0
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 87 69 4.5
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 7.0 --
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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