In the 11th inning after smoking a double to right-center field against the Braves, Bryce Harper ran through second base and stopped short before leaning down to put his hands on his knees. He stood at second base hunched over and appeared at first to be catching his breath.
But manager Matt Williams and head trainer Lee Kuntz could tell something was wrong and ran out to talk to him despite several attempts by Harper to wave them off. Harper, it turns out, felt a cramp in his right leg as he was turning towards third. It is not related to the left hamstring strain that he dealt with this past weekend, but it will require further evaluation by the team's medical staff.
"He just said it was a cramp when he went into second. Standing there, it got a little bit better," Williams said. "He told me he could score if there was a base hit, so it subsided a little bit. We'll see how it acts when he gets up in the morning. The doc will take a look at him, the trainers will take a look at him when we get back in there and we'll see what we've got."
Harper ended up scoring the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Ian Desmond. Harper was on third with the bases loaded when Desmond lined out to deep left field. It wasn't a close call as Harper jogged home comfortably.
Williams said the team will hope to have more on Harper before Thursday's game. The 22-year-old right fielder is hitting. .340 with 24 home runs and 58 RBI this season.
He has not played since Game 2 of the National League Division Series when he pulled up because of a hamstring strain after crossing first base. The strain was described at the time as “mild.” Robles has been working toward a return since then.
“We're going to run him a little bit [Sunday],” Davey Martinez said Sunday on a conference call. “He's got to get some treatment, and then we'll see [Monday]. He'll participate in BP and do a little bit more running, and we'll see where we're at [Monday].
“I'm not going to anticipate anything until he comes in [Monday], but he's progressing, and hopefully he'll be ready [Monday].”
Michael A. Taylor replaced Robles in center field. He hit an important solo home run Saturday and is hitting .300 in the postseason. He also made a significant judgment error in the outfield which allowed the Cardinals’ lone Game 2 -- and series -- run to score.
Martinez made it sound like Taylor’s time as the starting center fielder is over when Robles is ready to return.
“Victor has been in center field all year, and he's played really well for us,” Martinez said. “When he's healthy, he'll get a chance to play. But like I said before, we want him to be at 100 percent. So until then, we'll see what happens here in the next day or so.”
Few other changes are expected Monday. Stephen Strasburg will start. Kurt Suzuki -- despite his lack of postseason hitting and trouble throwing out runners -- should be behind the plate.
Reliever Roenis Elías, who has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since Sept. 5, may be in the mix Monday because Patrick Corbin’s bullpen appearances are now on hold prior to his Game 4 start.
“Moving forward, Elias is going to have to get those big outs against the lefties here in the next couple days,” Martinez said.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
After the Washington Nationals won back-to-back NL East division titles from 2017-2018 but failed to make it past the NLDS in each of those seasons, they cut bait with manager Dusty Baker by electing not to re-sign him when his contract expired.
Baker now has a chance to return to a managerial role, as the Chicago Tribune is reporting that he’s earned an interview with the Philadelphia Phillies after they fired Gabe Kapler last week.
The Phillies of course employ the services of Bryce Harper, who played under Baker in Washington and has spoken highly of him in the past.
After the Nats let him go, Baker stepped away from baseball for a year before joining the San Francisco Giants as a special adviser to the CEO last season. The two-time All-Star outfielder has managed the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals over parts of 22 seasons, amassing a career record of 1,863-1,636 (.532).
Of the 15 skippers with more wins in their managerial careers, 13 are in the Hall of Fame and one (Bruce Bochy) is a shoo-in to get there. The other is Gene Mauch, who joins Baker as the only two managers with at least 1,600 wins to never claim a World Series title.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: