Aug 25, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT
In what has been the Nationals’ best regular season stretch since they moved to Washington, just about everyone on their roster has contributed in the month of August. Many are playing their best baseball of 2014, and Bryce Harper is no exception.
The 21-year-old added a double, two RBI and his seventh home run of the season in the Nats’ 14-6 win over the Giants on Sunday. The homer was his fourth in his last 17 games, a span that has seen him bat .308 with nine runs, 11 RBI and an .869 OPS. In those 17 games, the Nationals went 14-3.
Harper is arguably playing his best baseball since April 2013 and it’s perhaps most evident in the type of hits he’s getting. On Sunday, his double was an opposite way laser over the head of Giants’ left fielder Michael Morse.
It came in the sixth inning off Jeremy Affeldt, who is one of the more accomplished lefty relievers in baseball today.
“I actually don’t mind facing lefties,” Harper said. “I’ve actually been saying that for three years now. So being able to be healthy with my knee and being able to be healthy being able to go up there and really take pitches and feel what I want to feel with my backside against the lefties is nice.”
Harper’s home run was against Juan Gutierrez in the eighth. The Giants right-hander sailed a fastball high above the strike zone, but Harper came around on it and blasted it off the foul pole in right field.
Manager Matt Williams has a theory as to why Harper is heating up.
“He’s hit a lot of balls back through the middle in recent days, which tells me that he’s seeing it and staying back. The ball to left especially is important for him. Then he got a ball up and middle of the plate that he was able to hit for a homer. It’s funny how those come when you’re hitting the ball back through the middle,” he said.
“If he hits a ball through the middle consistently, he’ll get pitches to hit where he can pull it and be able to hit a ball over the fence.”
Harper was a force down the stretch in 2012 as a rookie. The Nationals have 32 games left this year, and in that time two seasons ago Harper batted .339 with eight homers, 29 runs and 19 RBI.
Could he be poised for a similar surge? Williams is certainly seeing the signs.
“When he starts hitting the ball back through the middle and the opposite way, then he’s able to stay on the curveball and those balls go in the seats.”
NL EAST STANDINGS
x-Clinched division title
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
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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