Those who were hoping that Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper would soon be back from his knee injury are going to be disappointed.
Per a report from ESPN, Washington manager Dusty Baker said yesterday that Harper “is a long ways from running.”
Harper, 24, has been on the disabled list since slipping on a wet base and suffering a severe bone bruise in a rain-soaked game against the San Francisco Giants on August 12. He was having an MVP-caliber season to the tune of a .326 batting average, 29 home runs, and 87 RBI.
It’s looking more and more likely that Harper may not be ready for the playoffs and if that is the case, Washington may need to prepare itself for yet another early exit.
Nats without Bryce
The good news for the Nationals is that since Harper went down with his injury, the team has looked no worse for the wear. Including the game in which Harper hurt his knee as Washington has gone 13-6 and is currently on a four-game winning streak.
This can be attributed to both a strong pitching staff and viable outfield depth, with players like Michael Taylor and veteran Howie Kendrick doing a great job of stepping up. The Nationals have also been boosted by the recent returns of Trea Turner and Jayson Werth, not to mention staff ace Max Scherzer.
That said, at least on paper, the Washington Nationals could indeed go on a deep playoff run without Harper. They hold a 15-game lead over the Miami Marlins in the NL East and have proven able to maintain success without their star player, so the playoffs shouldn’t be any different, right?
Working against history
How quickly some seem to forget that when it comes to playoff performance, the Nationals don’t exactly have a rosy history. The team moved to the nation’s capital from Montreal in 2005 and became a regular playoff contender in 2012, winning 98 games and the NL East.
The 2012 National League Division Series was the first of three times that the Nationals have failed to advance past the first round in postseason play. Washington has found itself in the playoffs in 2012, 2014, and 2016 as the NL East champs, only to fall short in the best-of-five NLDS. Two of those times, Washington was in a position to clinch the series only to fall short due to either a balky bullpen or bad luck.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Bryce Harper was a regular on each of those squads. It just goes to show that even with Harper on the team, and no matter how much the Nationals’ roster has changed in the years since, the powerful outfielder’s presence doesn’t guarantee a series win.
That said, we revisit the original question. Can the Washington Nationals make a deep playoff run without Bryce Harper?
The answer to that question is yes, but the onus is on his teammates to carry Washington to that long-anticipated NLCS berth.
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