The Nationals were forced Tuesday night to go up against baseball’s best pitcher this season without the services of baseball’s best hitter this season.
Bryce Harper was scratched from the Nationals’ lineup with left knee soreness, the club announced about two hours before first pitch at Dodger Stadium, leaving the rest of the team to take its chances against Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke.
Harper hurt himself trying to make a diving catch of Jose Peraza’s sinking liner to right in the bottom of the third inning during Monday night’s 8-3 victory, manager Matt Williams told reporters in Los Angeles. The 22-year-old slugger finished the game with no issues, but the knee swelled up afterward. Williams told reporters no MRI was needed of the knee and Harper was available to come off the bench during Tuesday’s game.
This is the same knee Harper seriously injured in 2013, coincidentally as a result of crashing into the fence at Dodger Stadium, and though it has caused no serious problems over the last two seasons it has occasionally acted up on him. This is the first time it has forced him to miss a game this year.
After battling through a variety of injuries both significant and minor the last two seasons, Harper has managed to stay relatively healthy in 2015. He has been in the lineup for 105 of the Nationals’ 112 games to date, sidelined only a handful of times due to minor ailments.
The healthy Harper has proven to be the most-productive hitter in the sport. He entered play Tuesday with a .333 batting average, an NL-best 29 homers and an MLB-best .460 on-base percentage, .650 slugging percentage and 1.110 OPS. No player has posted an OPS that high over a full major-league season since Albert Pujols in 2008.
With Harper sitting out Tuesday’s game, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman moved up to the No. 3 spot in the Nationals lineup. Clint Robinson took over in right field and served as cleanup hitter.