Bryce Harper

MLB rumors: Nationals making Bryce Harper available in trades

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USATSI

MLB rumors: Nationals making Bryce Harper available in trades

There may be some fireworks at the MLB trade deadline after all. The Washington Nationals are reportedly listening to offers for superstar outfielder Bryce Harper, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. 

The Washington Post's Chelsea Janes also reported on Monday that the "sense from people around the team" was that Washngton had not ruled out trading him, but there were still questions surrounding his availability:

What no one seemed willing to clarify was whether the Nationals were simply doing their due diligence by listening to offers or actively soliciting them. The gap between picking up the phone and actively negotiating is wide, and no one with the team gave any indication of whether they had bridged it.

Harper, 25, can become a free agent at the end of the season. He is slashing .220/.369/.473 with 25 home runs and 62 RBI. The Nationals are currently 5 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East, as well as 6 games back of the Wild Card. 

The San Francisco Giants are believed to be interested in pursuing Harper once he reaches free agency. The Giants pursued slugger Giancarlo Stanton and two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani during the offseason, and traded Austin Jackson and Cody Gearrin earlier this month in order to get below the competitive balance tax (CBT) line and preserve flexibility for this upcoming winter. 

The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31 at 1 p.m. PT. 

No drama as Strickland, Harper square off for first time since fight

No drama as Strickland, Harper square off for first time since fight

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Hunter Pence's RBI single in the seventh inning on Friday was a sneaky big moment if you're a fan of drama. The run gave the Giants a 9-5 lead, which meant Hunter Strickland was left in the bullpen in the ninth inning, when Bryce Harper was due up third. There was no avoiding a confrontation on Sunday. 

Harper led off the top of the ninth at Nationals Park, and Strickland came in with a two-run lead. A little over a year after they came to blows in the middle of AT&T Park, Harper grounded Strickland's third pitch up the middle for the first out of a 1-2-3 ninth. 

"Last year is over. I've just got to get the out," Strickland said. "The past is the past. Everybody has moved on and that's part of the job, to get whoever is up there out."

Well, not everybody has moved on. Much of Sunday's crowd departed before the ninth, fearful that a storm was on the way. But those who remained showered Strickland with loud boos as he warmed up. The boos were not as loud, however, as they were when Strickland and the Giants played here last August. 

"That's expected," Strickland said, smiling. "I don't blame them."

The matchup never came close to turning dramatic. The first pitch was an 89 mph slider that was up, and Harper fouled it back. Two pitches later, he was headed back to the dugout. Harper did not look back at Strickland and Strickland did not look back at Harper. He returned to the mound and clinched his 13th save, capping off a big day for the bullpen.

Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless sixth against his former team. Sam Dyson breezed through the seventh. Tony Watson struck out one in the eighth. The four relievers combined for four hitless innings and struck out three, continuing a trend. Since Will Smith and Melancon returned, this bullpen has turned into one of the National League's strongest. 

"Those guys are tremendous and they're going a great job," Strickland said. "Everybody all year has been doing their part, but to get those guys back, with that kind of experience, is always clutch."

Strickland reacts to raining boos at Nationals Park: 'I don't blame them'

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AP

Strickland reacts to raining boos at Nationals Park: 'I don't blame them'

WASHINGTON D.C. — When the Giants arrived at Nationals Park on Friday, Bruce Bochy was asked if he would let Hunter Strickland face Bryce Harper in this series. He said that without a doubt he would, if the situation called for it. 

Harper was lost before Strickland ever took the mound, suffering a knee injury in Saturday night’s series opener. A few hours later, Strickland did end up facing the heart of Washington’s order, and the home fans showed they haven’t forgotten a fight that occurred earlier this season at AT&T Park. 

Strickland was booed as soon as the bullpen door opened up, and the chorus became overwhelming when he was announced as the pitcher for the eighth inning. The grumbling continued throughout the inning. After giving up a two-run homer in his frame, Strickland walked off to 30 seconds of additional boos. 

“I don’t blame them,” Strickland said. “They’re obviously pulling for him and didn’t like how things went down (in San Francisco). I didn’t expect anything different.”

Asked about the boos, Bochy smiled. 

“I thought it would be a standing ovation,” he joked. “I was a little surprised.”

Harper wasn’t around to try and get revenge, but the Nationals’ No. 3 hitter got a piece. Anthony Rendon hit a two-run shot that cut the deficit in half. The Giants went on to win 4-2. 

“Obviously I made a mistake on one pitch and he got the best of it,” Strickland said. 

The right-hander said he hopes to get another shot in the nightcap of the doubleheader. As for Harper, the Nationals got good news Sunday. What initially looked like a devastating injury is just a hyperextension and bone bruise. The Nationals expect Harper back in the lineup at some point this year. 

“That’s huge for them, and huge for him in his career,” Strickland said. “You don’t wish injuries on anyone, no matter what.”