Ironman Bryce Harper one of MLB's best in August and feels that way at Nationals Park


The Phillies have dealt with so many losses this season. 

There are the 64 attached to their record entering Tuesday night, but some of the losses have been more costly than a half-game in a tight playoff race.

They've lost Rhys Hoskins and Zach Eflin for the season. They've lost more than 50 games of Didi Gregorius to an elbow injury. They've lost three weeks of Jean Segura to groin and quad injuries, and two weeks of Andrew McCutchen to a lingering knee issue. They have not lost J.T. Realmuto to an extended absence, but they've watched his production dip as he's dealt with injury after injury this year -- broken hand, a deep bone bruise in the hand, foul tips to the mask, a shoulder injury, now an ankle injury.

Bryce Harper has been similarly banged-up this season, especially early, but he just has not come off the field since the All-Star break. Monday night was the 40th consecutive game he's started and his 54th start in the Phillies' last 55 games. The only time during that stretch that he's sat was the second game of a doubleheader out of the All-Star break when he was treated for dehydration between games.

"I've just got to keep going," Harper said after Monday's 7-4 Phillies win. "That's what this organization expects. That's what these fans expect. No matter who's on the mound or how I'm feeling, I've got to keep posting every day. I want to play as much as I can. 


"I've thought about taking days off. I've thought about, many times, going in there, maybe I can get one today and it'll do me good. But every time I get to the ballpark and think about it or telling (Joe) Girardi, then I get to the ballpark and it's, 'never mind, I want to play.'"

And the more he's played, the better he's gotten. Harper is having his best season since 2015, when he won National League MVP. He's in the race again this year. He's hitting .302/.417/.591 with 31 doubles, 26 homers and 61 RBI. His 1.008 OPS narrowly leads all of Major League Baseball -- one point ahead of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and two ahead of Fernando Tatis Jr.

"He's been incredible," Girardi said. "What he's done for this club is absolutely incredible. And he has that ability all the time, that's how good of a player he is. He's meant so much to us, he's grinded it out, played every day, stolen bases, played good defense, walked, driven in runs, big hits. He's been special.

"This is the time of year you've got to really grind it out. He's being pushed but he wants to be pushed and he wants to be great and he wants to help us make the playoffs."

August has been Harper's best month as a Phillie. The only player in the majors with more home runs, a higher slugging percentage (.774) or higher OPS (1.219) than Harper in August is Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron. 

Harper has hit .323 this month with 10 doubles, 10 homers, 23 RBI, 24 runs scored and as many walks as strikeouts.

"I've faced him so many times in my career and I've always just enjoyed watching him be a baseball player," said Zack Wheeler, Monday's winning pitcher. "Now that I'm on his team and watching him play every day, it's pretty special. There's not a lot of guys like that. He told me he was about to turn it on and then he did."

Wheeler smiled but would not divulge when Harper sent that message.

Ask him about the importance of a particular series or the success of a teammate and Harper typically has a lot to say. But he does not like talking about his own season until it ends. 

"I feel like we have a long way to go," he said. "We've got a whole month to play. I just try to stay in the moment, stay in the game and not really worry about what's behind me or what's ahead."

Harper did admit that there's still extra satisfaction in playing and having success at Nationals Park. His two-run homer in the first inning Monday night set the tone. It was his 100th career homer at Nationals Park, where he has hit .337 with eight home runs in 24 games as a Phillie.

"I just feel like I love playing here, I do," he said. "I like hitting here, I always have. I see the ball really well here. Every time I play here, I feel like I'm the best player in the world."


This month, he may be.

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