WASHINGTON — Adam Eaton is sick of hearing about Bryce Harper but eager to see him face Max Scherzer.

Sean Doolittle has spent time game planning for Harper but is focused more on the Phillies' lineup as a whole.

"It's not just him," Doolittle said Tuesday ahead of the Phillies' first meeting of the year with the Nationals. "One thing that I think is lost in this is that we're talking a lot about Bryce, rightfully so, but look at the other guys in that lineup. 

"This is probably the deepest lineup in the league and it was on full display in that first series, the kind of damage they can do and the different ways they can burn you. There are a lot of other guys in this lineup you have to take seriously. There aren't many holes."

Many in Philadelphia have said the same thing in recent days, but it's interesting to hear that opinion from a rival pitcher. Doolittle knows how focused he and his teammates have to be when facing any Phillie one through eight, not just the $330 million man.

The Phillies' rivalry with the Nationals is already intriguing enough given the two rosters, but Harper's 13-year marriage with the Phils kicks things up several notches. If Harper plays out his full contract with the Phils, he'll end his career having played in Philly nearly twice as long as he played in Washington.

Harper said a lot of the right things Tuesday in his return to Nationals Park. He spoke of visiting one of his favorite food spots immediately Monday, talked about good times, referenced the teammates he grew strong bonds with.

 

He said it all while wearing a shirt that read "Philly" across the chest and a hat that read "Positive Vibes."

The vibes Harper gets in D.C. this week will likely be mixed.

"We're all tired of hearing about it and just excited to get out on the field and play," said Eaton, Harper's former outfield-mate. "I think he's tired of it as well. As much as you think he loves the spotlight, he really doesn't. He loves to crawl in a hole and go play baseball. I think everybody involved just really wants to move on and play for October."

These are two of the deepest rosters in the National League. The Phillies, according to Doolittle and many others, are among the best offenses in the game. The Nationals are still rock solid up and down the lineup and have an edge on every team in baseball with their 1-2-3 of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

Harper will get his first taste of Scherzer Tuesday night. He couldn't recall facing him in live batting practice.

Will either of them have an advantage on the other?

"Intel, yeah, you know what, a little bit," Eaton said. "You play behind pitchers enough, especially as a centerfielder, you see how their pitches move, the shape, the demeanor, maybe what's coming next. With him and Max, it should be interesting. Max is very predictable but also not very predictable. He always seems like he's one step ahead of the hitter even if he's faced him quite a bit. And he's even evolved since last year with certain pitches he's throwing a little more frequently. 

"It's must-see TV in my opinion."

Will the Nats gain any extra inspiration from facing the former face of their franchise?

Eaton laughed at the question.

"This is a big-league clubhouse," he said. "I want to win, I don't care who's over there. I think everyone would say that. If you're getting up because Bryce Harper's on the other side, we've got a problem. 

"It doesn't matter if your grandma is playing shortstop, we want to win."

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