So, yeah, the Washington Nationals lost for the fifth time in six games against the Atlanta Braves this season. And, yeah, the three starters they sent to the mound struggled against the Braves' hard-hitting lineup. And, sure, the Nats lost Ryan Zimmerman to a fractured thumb that will cost him 4-6 weeks on the sidelines. It's not all bad news though. Bryce Harper started hitting.
In fact, he started a six-game hit streak back in the last series of the first homestand of the year against the same Miami Marlins the Nationals face tonight in Florida. Harper ended the weekend with a 2 for 2 game in which he doubled and drew two walks. Over the last six games, the Nats' 21-year-old outfielder is 10 for 21 with a double and a home run in 25 plate appearances, over which he has a .476/.550/.667 line.
On the year, the "struggling" third-year major league now has a .310/.383/.405 line.
What's changed for Harper after he was frustrated and a "tick off" in the first few games of the season?
"I think it's all of it," Matt Williams told reporters after Sunday' loss in Atlanta.
"Swing's shorter, seeing the ball better, he's not pulling off the ball like he was and staying through it and taking his walks too when they're giving them to him."
Is Harper, who got a day off during the Nationals' homestand after expressing his frustration with his start in the tunnel leading from the Nats' dugout to the clubhouse last week, more relaxed at the plate now?
"You always look more relaxed when you're seeing the ball better," Williams said.
"Is it chicken or the egg? But, again, he seems to be seeing it better. He's swinging at more strikes and taking the walks when they're giving it to him. He's doing well."
Can Harper continue hitting in Miami this week, against the Marlins he's posted a .284/.347/.537 line against so far in his career, while hitting five doubles and nine home runs in 34 games and 147 PAs? He has a .203/.299/.373 line, with just two of his five doubles, and two of his nine home runs against the Marlins in Miami...
Can Harper stretch his hit streak to seven games? We'll find out tonight. Until then, it's links and lots of them, starting.. RIGHT NOW!!!:
• THE BIG STORY!!!:
• "Span was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Saturday after he was knocked down by Dan Uggla as he rounded first base after a game-tying single..." - "Denard Span on concussion: ‘I definitely don’t feel as bad as I did years ago’" - James Wagner, The Washington Post
• NATS BEAT:
• "Perhaps the Nationals’ overall weekend struggles against the Braves left the 21-year-old outfielder shying away from touting any personal accolades." - "Bryce Harper finding his stride, raises batting average to .310" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
• "Harper's doing his share of late. After going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks Sunday, he's got a six-game hitting streak..." - "Nationals Pastime: Hearing from Harper, Desmond and McLouth" - Pete Kerzel, MASNSports.com
• "The Braves simply have the Nationals' number. In fact, Atlanta has won 18 of 25 games against Washington in the last two years." - "Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves - April 13, 2014" - Bill Ladson, MLB.com WSH Recap
Freeman on pinky finger: "It was more of a scare than an injury. I got really lucky. If I don’t choke up, I think I’m done."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) April 13, 2014
• "Their starting pitchers struggled. They were swept by the Braves and all five of their losses this season have come against their division foe." - "Takeaways from a tough weekend in Atlanta" - James Wagner, The Washington Post
• "Given the way things went in Atlanta over the weekend, the Nats might be pretty pleased that they won't be seeing their top division rivals for a little while." - "Nationals Pastime: Moving on to Miami" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
• "A 10-2 drubbing at Turner Field was only the latest — and most disheartening — development." - "Washington Nationals try to get over repeated losses to Atlanta Braves" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
• "All five of the Nationals’ losses through 12 games have come at the hands of the defending National League East champions, capped by a gory weekend and sweep here." - "Braves bash Nationals again, 10-2, to complete series sweep" - James Wagner, The Washington Post
• "Last Wednesday, Zimmermann had an outing he would like to forget..." - "Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins - April 14, 2014" - Bill Ladson, MLB.com Preview
• "After being swept this weekend by the homestanding Braves, it's a good bet manager Matt Williams won't be critical of the schedule-maker." - "Nationals Pastime: After weekend sweep in Atlanta, Williams' focus is firmly on the future" - Pete Kerzel, MASNSports.com
• "Gio Gonzalez was tagged for six early runs, once again putting the Nationals in a big hole in Atlanta, and the rest was pretty much academic." - "Instant analysis: Braves 10, Nats 2" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
• "Nate McLouth was scratched nearly 30 minutes before first pitch on Sunday in Atlanta after an old injury in his left knee flared up..." - "Nate McLouth scratched after left knee flared up pregame" - James Wagner, The Washington Post
• "It didn't take long for the Braves to get to Gio Gonzalez. Atlanta took a 3-0 lead over the Nationals in the first inning." - "Nationals Pastime: Braves rake Gonzalez early, lead 6-0 (Nats lose 10-2)" - Pete Kerzel, MASNSports.com
• "On Tuesday, the Nationals will take part in a league-wide celebration of Jackie Robinson Day by honoring the first African American player in Major League Baseball." - "Jackie Robinson Day 'very special' for Nationals" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com: News
• Your Daily Message from the Dalai Lama on Twitter (@DalaiLama):
Pay more attention to compassion and you’ll find you’re happier. It’s that practical and simple.— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) April 14, 2014
• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:
• "'I don't know if it's about getting in their heads,' Freeman said. 'You just want to go out there and win series. It doesn't matter who it's against.'" - "Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves - Recap - April 13, 2014" - ESPN
• "Discussing the future of the Washington Nationals system. What can the farm contribute in 2014?" - "Washington Nationals Organization Discussion" - John Sickels, Minor League Ball
• "The Washington Nationals are a baseball team that has become the comic foil for the Atlanta Braves." - "The Washington Nationals … or the Washington Generals?" - Mark Bradley, www.ajc.com
• "Despite that growing list of injuries, Washington had four consecutive games with 10 or more hits before registering six in a 10-2 loss to the Braves on Sunday." - "Nationals at Marlins game preview" - FOX Sports on MSN
• "After 629 Minor League games in the last eight years, including 48 with the Vermont Lake Monsters during the 2008 season, outfielder Steven Souza is on a Major League roster for the first time..." - "Former Vt. Lake Monster player moves into Major League play" - Paul Stanfield, Addison Eagle
• "Former South Dakota State University pitcher Blake Treinen has been called up to the major leagues by the Washington Nationals." - "Former Jackrabbit Treinen Called Up To Majors" - Yankton Press & Dakotan: Sports
• NATS MINORS:
• Low-A Hagerstown: "Going five innings, Giolito (1-0) allowed one hit, no runs and one walk. He struck out six batters for his first win in beating Lakewood." - "Giolito and Johansen shine in weekend series for Hagerstown" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com
• Low-A Hagerstown: "That offensive explosion was more than enough to hand starting RHP Jake Johansen (1-0) the win." - "Suns sweep four game series with Lakewood" - Eli Pearlstein, Hagerstown Suns News
• High-A Potomac: "Nationals LHP Nick Lee (0-2) only allowed one hit in 1.2 innings but surrendered five earned runs on five walks and was hit with the loss." - "Carolina Mudcats rip Potomac Nationals, 12-2" - Augusta Free Press
• Double-A Harrisburg: A.J. Cole - (W, 2-0), 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 Ks - Harrisburg Senators Scoreboard
• Double-A Harrisburg: "Unable to get much run support last year with the Senators, RHP Taylor Hill is showing he doesn't need much with the Chiefs." - "Spotlight on Anthony Rendon, Taylor Hill, Ian Krol, more: Senators/Nationals glance" - Geoff Morrow, PennLive.com
• Triple-A Syracuse: "The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, dropped a 7-1 series finale to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Sunday afternoon." - "Chiefs fall in road-trip finale" - Syracuse Chiefs News
• "Triples: Isaac Ballou, 2. He is off to a quick start at Potomac (A). You will likely see him sprinkled through the stat leaders all season. He leads with 2 triples early on." - "Nats Minor League System Stat Leaders (4-14)" - Mark Buterbaugh, DC Pro Sports Report
• "Monday’s News & Notes" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com
• "The Nats have been terrible vs the Braves. Going back to late 2012 that makes the Nats 7-22 in their last 29 games vs Atlanta." - "Monday Quickie - I love Mondays!" - Harper, Nationals Baseball
• "The good news is that Washington doesn’t play the Braves again until June 19..." - "Can the Nats win the NL East without beating the Braves?" - Scott Allen, DC Sports Bog
• "There will be plenty of time to reflect on the Nats' lost weekend in Atlanta." - "Nationals Buzz: Flashing back to happier times after a lost weekend" - Marty Niland:, MASNSports.com
• "The Washington Nationals would just as soon forget about the past weekend and get the heck out of Atlanta." - "Washington Nationals Game 12 Review: Nats blasted by Braves 10-2" - Dave Nichols, District Sports Page
• "The Nats will have to compensate for the loss of a middle of the lineup bat by shuffling the infield a bit." - "While Zim’s Away" - cfliegel, The Nationals Review
• "Scouting Report- Miami Marlins (again!)" - Matt's Bats
• "Well, I’ve got news for you: if you thought Tyler Clippard was a great reliever in 2011–he is still the same guy he was in 2011." - "What the Hell is the Matter with Tyler Clippard?" - Ouij, Natstradamus
• "The Braves have beaten the Nats five out of the first six times they have faced them to begin the year. Furthermore the Braves are the only team to defeat the Nats in 2014." - "Nats Look Even Worse In 10-2 Loss To Atlanta" - Nick Fineman, The Nats Blog
• NL EAST UPDATES:
• Marlins: "Hand makes his second start in place of the injured Jacob Turner (shoulder)." - "Capsule look at Miami Marlins’ upcoming series vs. Washington..." - Tom D'Angelo, www.palmbeachpost.com
• Phillies: "After getting swept by the Brewers, the Phillies turned around and swept the Marlins in a three-game series in which they averaged five runs per game." - "Phillies Showing Tremendous Plate Discipline" - Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley
• Mets: "Daniel Murphy and David Wright were both tossed out of the game in the seventh inning on Sunday after arguing what they thought was a low strike zone by home plate umpire Toby Basner." - "MMO Morning Grind: The Umpire Strikes Back" - Joe D, Mets Merized Online