Bryce Harper returned to the Washington Nationals’ lineup in time to get in five games of at bats and capped his 2017 campaign off with a two-hit game on Sunday afternoon that left the Nats’ 24-year-old right fielder with a .319/.413/.595 line, 27 doubles, 29 home runs, 68 walks, and 99 Ks in 111 games and 492 plate appearances, over which he produced 156 wRC+ and was worth 4.8 fWAR.
“He looked better,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the regular season finale.
“He looked better. He’s been looking progressively better. He’s seeing pitches. He’s laying off bad pitches, and so now it’s time for us to go in a few days.”
Baker told reporters last week that most players don’t like the break before the start of the division series, but said it might benefit Harper, giving him four days to work on his timing before the start of the NLDS.
“Each day that goes by gives him another chance to get his timing and his rhythm,” Baker explained.
“And if he doesn’t get it right away, we’ve got to pick up the slack until he does get it.”
While Harper finished up the regular season healthy, there was another injury scare for the Nationals in Game 162 of 162 when Michael A. Taylor took a pitch off his hand late in the eighth inning. Baker said he thought the 26-year-old outfielder avoided serious damage.
“He seemed like he was okay. He didn’t show anything. I don’t know where the ball hit him exactly. So we’ll take a look at that.”
Taylor told reporters, as quoted by Washington Times’ writer Todd Dybas, that he was fine.
Taylor said the pitch hit him on his middle finger and that he is fine. “I think it scared me more than anything.” Small mark on his finger.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) October 2, 2017
The biggest scare this past weekend came on Saturday night, however, when Max Scherzer left the penultimate game of the regular season with a hamstring issue.
Baker said on Sunday that while the results of the MRI Scherzer took were positive, the issue might still affect his planning for the postseason rotation.
“Probably. But he’s going to be fine,” Baker explained, saying it a matter of determining when Scherzer can go.
Scherzer noted that even if he isn’t ready for Game 1 on Friday, he could pitch in Game 2 and a potential Game 5 and stay on regular rest.
“Well, maybe,” Baker said when informed about Scherzer’s speculation. “It just depends on what our evaluation of him is and himself. Max knows himself pretty well, and as you can tell, Max can add and subtract when he got it all figured out, but you know Max.”
As for his plans for the team over the next three days, Baker said he planned to give everyone a day off Monday before they got back to work today.
“I’m going to try to give everybody a day off tomorrow [Monday], a mental break and a physical break, and then we’ll go back to work. We’ll go back to the fundamentals, and make sure we cover most of the bases, PFPs, infield, outfield, catch a lot of balls, go over the signs, there will be some pitchers that want to get some work that are going to throw to hitters, and then we’ll do that Tuesday and Wednesday and then Thursday we’ll take it like a normal batting practice, and kind of make sure we get a good night’s rest and come out smoking on Friday.”
At 7:31 PM on Friday night in the nation’s capital, the Nationals will start their fourth postseason run in the last six seasons against the Chicago Cubs. For now... we wait.