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Harper creating distance in quest for NL batting title


Harper creating distance in quest for NL batting title

With Bryce Harper already at the 40-home run mark and in pursuit of a likely NL MVP award, perhaps overlooked in his historic season is his chance for another rare and impressive accomplishment. With two more hits on Thursday night, Harper raised his NL-best batting average to .340. The first batting title in Nationals team history is well within reach.

Reinforcing that thought was the fact Marlins All-Star Dee Gordon was also on the field on Thursday. Gordon is second in the NL with a .333 average and had two hits himself in the game. But with the way Harper has been heating up, it's his award to lose.

Through 16 games in September, Harper is batting .423. That's up from his .327 average in August and his .300 mark in July. He reached the .340 mark on Thursday for the first time since July 12.

That day, July 12th, Harper actually mentioned the .340 mark as a specific goal for him this season. 

"I'm pretty upset I dropped below .340 today, so hopefully I improve that," he said.

It took Harper 59 games to get back, but the Nats' right-fielder was not interested in talking about that number or the possibility of winning a batting title after Thursday's loss.

"I really don’t give a crap about my accolades or anything like that. I’m gonna play and I’m gonna play hard. At the end of the year, my numbers will be there and votes will be votes and whatever," he said.

Harper will surely be able to appreciate his season once it is over, as he is on pace to join some exclusive company, particularly in D.C. baseball history. He could become the fifth player in Washington history to win a batting title and the first in 62 years.

1928 - Goose Goslin - .379
1935 - Buddy Myer - .349
1946 - Mickey Vernon - .353
1953 - Mickey Vernon - .337

Harper is almost certain to finish this season with the best batting average in Nationals history. The current record is Dmitri Young, who hit .320 in 2007. Harper, in fact, has a chance to catch the Nats/Expos franchise record of .345, set by Vladimir Guerrero in 2000. Only one other player in franchise history has hit .340 or higher, Hubie Brooks in 1986.

Harper is on pace to have the best batting average by a National League player since 2010. Only three of the last 10 winners of the NL batting title have hit above .338.

Harper has been particularly hot over the last 30 days. In 29 games since Aug. 18, Harper has raised his batting average from .326 to .340. Through that stretch he has batted .385 with 10 homers, 19 RBI and a 1.315 OPS.

Nine of those homers have actually come in his last 13 games, something Harper says is a result of being more selective at the plate.

“I just think I’m trying to still have good at-bats and still look for the pitch I want to hit. I’m still walking when I can. I’m swinging at that 2-0 pitch now which I haven’t been in a couple weeks. I’m swinging at that 3-1 again now. That’s been tough because 2-0, I haven’t really got a pitch over the plate to swing at so I’ve just been taking it," he said.

Harper is aware of his numbers, but he insists his focus is primarily on other things. At least for now that is, while the Nats continue to cling to their longshot playoff hopes.

“Everybody’s gonna expect 40 a year every time I play now. 40 homers without a whole lineup I guess all year, that’s the only thing I can say that’s something where I’m pretty proud of myself to be able to have the games, have the walks, have the ability to stay in games and really just do the things I can to help this team win.”

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.


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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.