Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .247/.293/.395
Team ERA: 4.25
Runs per game: 3.8
Max Scherzer, SP: 2-0, 13.2 IP, 5 ER, 16 K
The Nats earned two wins in the past week, and not coincidently, both were in games Scherzer started. The NL Cy Young candidate was the stopper the Nats needed Wednesday night against the Marlins, pitching well enough (6 2/3 innings, three earned runs) to end a four-game skid.
The biggest key to Scherzer’s second half has been his ability to solve his home run problem. Before the All-Star break, he allowed 21 long balls in 19 starts. Since? He’s given up seven homers in 13 outings.
Trea Turner, CF: .360 AVG, 4 HR, 1.345 OPS
It might be time to stop saying that Turner has “sneaky pop.” These days, he just has plain old pop. The 23-year-old speedster continues to show that he’s much more than the prototypical leadoff man, launching four long balls over the past week. Since the All-Star break, he leads the Nats in runs (49), home runs (12), triples (7) and stolen bases (27). His breakout second half has undoubtedly made him one of the X-factors for the Nats come October.
Bryce Harper, RF: .105 AVG, 5 K, .333 OPS
Amidst another tough week at the plate, more speculation has emerged about the source of Harper’s season-long struggles. A Sports Illustrated report surfaced in recent days about the reigning NL MVP dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, a claim that has been repeatedly and vehemently denied by the team.
Regardless of the causes, Harper’s funk has been difficult to explain. Sure, he's not having a career-worst campaign — he’s still amassed 24 homers and 82 RBI— but he’s struggling in situations where he previously excelled. For example, he hammered fastballs last season, especially on the inner third of the strike zone. In 2015, Harper hit .421 on middle-in heaters and .333 when they were up and in, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Against those pitches this year, he’s hitting .190 and .000, respectively. Is that solely because of injury? Pitchers making adjustments? Another reason entirely? It’s hard to say, but the Nats have to hope Harper can snap out of it before the postseason starts.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-1, 4.1 IP, 6 ER
In two out of his last three outings, Gonzalez has yielded six earned runs and failed to get through the fifth inning. Given the state of the rotation sans Stephen Strasburg, that’s the last thing the Nats want to see right now as the playoffs draw nearer. But is there a better option at the moment? Joe Ross is still being stretched out to handle the workload of a full start. So if he’s not ready, the Nats may have to tap their veteran left hander to fill in as the third rotation arm.