Dusty Baker hinted (strongly) that Bryce Harper might get his first day off of the season in today's series finale with the Twins before Saturday's matchup with Minnesota.
Through 17 games in his fifth major league season, the 23-year-old defending NL MVP has put up a .311/.397/.803 line with six doubles and eight home runs in 73 plate appearance, with a major league-leading 22 RBIs, the highest slugging percentage and the most home runs in baseball, tied with the Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story for the league lead.
He had not, however, been given a day off thus far, so Baker was planning on sitting the 2010 No. 1 overall pick today.
With Harper out of the lineup, Matt den Dekker leads off and gets a start in right field, with Michael A. Taylor batting second and playing center and Jayson Werth in right.
Danny Espinosa is getting the day off as well, after going 2 for 5 in the first two games of the three-game Interleague set.
Espinosa was 2 for 3 in the series opener, and 0 for 2 with a walk in Saturday's win.
Baker talked before the second game with the Twins about the work Espinosa, who is 9 for 48 (.188/.322/.208) with a double, eight walks and 11 Ks, has been doing to get things going on the offensive end.
It's still a work in progress.
"You just don't change overnight," Baker said. "It's a gradual process, and so he's not the only one that's stressing out over at bats. I see stress, period. There are only a few guys on our team -- to be a good hitter, you have to remain tension-free most of the time. Tension is a hitter's worst nightmare.
"Tension is even in your jobs, any job, so we just try to stress [that] to the guys and try to relieve them of tension as I can."
That balance, the way he deals with his players and how he handles the clubhouse were important parts of his resume when he was hired by the Nationals this winter.
Baker was asked on Saturday how he developed his managerial style and who influenced the way he goes about his job.
"Man, I don't know," he said, with a hint of faux exasperation.
"I really don't know. It's just a combination of how to be from certain players and coaches and how not to be from other players and coaches and how you are as a person and what you liked and didn't like from coaches. You know what I mean?
"So it's just a combination of a lot of things I liked. I don't think it's mine, necessarily, I think it's ours.
"They set the tone also. There's a couple guys in there I'd like to loosen up, big time, because it's counterproductive to be too tight and it's also counter-productive to be too loose.
"So there's a thin line between good and great, so we're trying to get to great."
Baker and his team will try strive greatness again this afternoon as they look to take all three games from the Twins. If they do it will be the first sweep of a series for either team in their shared history (2005-present).
Here's the Nationals' lineup for this afternoon's series finale via CSN Mid-Atlantic's Chase Hughes:
Harper out today. Dusty said yesterday he wanted to rest him. Has played in every game so far: pic.twitter.com/xoXaJIuDpR— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) April 24, 2016