Bryce Harper spent some time in the two-hole in Washington’s order in June, and hit second once in July, but he took the majority of his at bats as the Nationals’ No. 3 in 2017.
Dusty Baker put the Nats’ slugger in the two-spot when he returned from the Disabled List late in September, to get him as many at bats as possible while he recovered from the bone bruise in his knee and left calf strain and tried to get his timing back.
Baker penciled Harper in the two-hole for the NLDS opener with the Chicago Cubs as well. So why?
“Bryce batting second, perhaps he’ll get some fastballs with Trea [Turner] getting on base, which is important,” Baker explained, “and we know that Bryce isn’t back 100% timing-wise. So, you want to not have him in the those key RBI situations right now.
“By next week, or the end of this five-game series, we might do something different.”
As for the rest of the Nats’ lineup, that has Anthony Rendon batting third, Daniel Murphy fourth, Ryan Zimmerman batting fifth, Jayson Werth sixth, Matt Wieters seventh and Michael A. Taylor eighth?
“Right now, Rendon, he’s been swinging very well. Murph responds in the fourth spot. Zimm has responded 4 or 5, and then a couple of the key men are going to be at the bottom of the order. It depends on how Jay, Wieters, and Michael Taylor — so those guys are very, very important in the bottom of the order.”
Baker also talked about some of the last roster decisions on the bench and in the bullpen, like the decision to keep Victor Robles, the Nationals’ 20-year-old rookie.
“We were weighing the need for speed,” Baker said, “and also the need for defense, and especially if I have to, you know, run for Wieters or run for [Jose] Lobaton, and were were kind of left-handed strong on the bench.”
Baker and Co. also made the decision to keep four left-handers in the bullpen with Sean Doolittle (obviously), Oliver Perez, Enny Romero, and also Sammy Solis earning spots on the Postseason roster.
“What we went into,” Baker said, “we know they have quite a few lefties, and our lefties are pretty good at getting righties out. And we kept the best bullpen that we thought, you know for this series. I mean it was a tough decision. It’s always tough to leave guys off, especially guys that helped you get here all year.”