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Instant Analysis: Nats 12, Brewers 2

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Instant Analysis: Nats 12, Brewers 2

Nats 12, Brewers 2

Game in a nutshell: With the Braves off for the day, the Nationals came into Monday with a chance to create some separation. The game was tied at one until the fourth inning when the Nationals exploded with six runs. They then added two in the fifth inning off a two-RBI double by Kurt Suzuki to go up 9-1. Three more runs scored in the bottom of the eighth completed the 12-run day. Jordan Zimmermann pitched in with two hits and an RBI along with 6 23 innings with just one earned run allowed.

Hitting highlight: The Nationals blew the game open thanks to some two-out hitting in the fourth inning. Roger Bernadina started the rally by reaching first on a fielders choice. He was then moved to second on a Kurt Suzuki single. Zimmermann scored Bernadina on his second hit of the day and then both the pitcher and catcher came home on a fly ball to center by Jayson Werth. Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez lost the ball in the sun and disaster for Milwaukee ensued. Bryce Harper joined Werth on base with a walk and then both were batted in on a three-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman, his 24th of the season.

Pitching highlight: It seems every time Jordan Zimmermann gives up a run early he then settles in with a gem of a start. Against the Brewers he gave up a home run on the first pitch of the second inning but after that pitched four straight scoreless innings. In the fourth inning he needed just ten pitches to set down Milwaukees three, four, and five hitters. He kept the Brewers in check until being hooked after his 106th pitch of the day, in the seventh inning with two outs.

Key stat: After giving up eight earned runs to the Cardinals on September 1st, Zimmermann has gone at least five innings allowing two earned runs or less in four straight games.

Up next: A trip to Philadelphia for a three game series. The Nats play Philly in six of their last nine games and could clinch the division at the home of their most heated rival. Ross Detwiler will look for the Nats 94th win of the season.

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Tom Verducci gives more specifics on Bryce Harper's 2016 injury

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Tom Verducci gives more specifics on Bryce Harper's 2016 injury

Entering 2016, Bryce Harper was ready to take over the world. After putting forth one of the most impressive offensive seasons in recent memory in 2015, he was rewarded by being named the youngest unanimous MVP in the history of baseball. The following season, he was prepared to take another step forward.

Instead, he slashed .243/.373/.441 with 24 home runs, and questions abounded about why he was struggling.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, one of baseball’s most accomplished reporters, wrote a story late in the season about how Harper had suffered a shoulder injury, according to a source. The Nationals vehemently denied these reports at the time, claiming that their doctors were not aware of any medical issues with Harper’s shoulder. Mike Rizzo said he asked Harper directly if he was hurt and was told no.

At this year’s Winter Meetings, Verducci spoke with NBC Sports Washington, and he doubled down on his reporting.

“2016, of course, that’s when he injured his shoulder. It was a slide in Milwaukee, about one-third of the way into the season, was never quite the same.”

Whereas in 2016 Verducci simply referred to “a source,” it appears this information came from Harper directly.

“As he told me,” Verducci says, “He could not lift weights upper-body wise through the rest of that season, he lost weight, didn’t have the same kind of power. He was compromised even throwing on defense, he had to compromise by playing much more shallow.”

“The numbers in ‘16 really are a function of the injury.”

One concern Nats fans have about signing Harper to a major deal is how his numbers in the post-MVP years have failed to match 2015. According to Baseball-Reference, his combined Wins Above Replacement total from 2016-18 is 7.5. His bWAR in 2015 alone was 10.0. Still, Harper never had an OPS+ below 114 in that stretch. Even his “down” seasons would still be considered quality years for most big league hitters.

Harper is also just now entering his prime, however, so presumably many of his best seasons are still to come. For one MLB insider, at least, there’s no real cause for concern about a long term deal as long as Harper can stay healthy.

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The case for the Phillies as the frontrunner for Bryce Harper, according to Tim Kurkjian

The case for the Phillies as the frontrunner for Bryce Harper, according to Tim Kurkjian

Well, this is not what Nationals fans want to hear. 

There is no bigger buzz at MLB's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas than where free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign. Tim Kurkjian, one of the most respected baseball analysts, believes that Harper will stay in the NL East, but sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, not with the Nationals. 

"I think the most logical landing spot for Bryce Harper is the Phillies," Kurkjian said. "The Phillies have a lot of money and they are willing to spend it. They've made that abundently clear."

The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million extension on the last day of the 2018 regular season. As expected, he declined.

Aside from that ability to offer the 26-year-old a very large contract, Kurkjian thinks that Philadelphia makes perfect sense in Harper for purely baseball reasons. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is also fascinated by what Harper would bring to the table.

"They also have a tremendous need [in the outfield]. They played really well for three or four months last year, but the last two months were not good," Kurkjian said. "That club needs a middle of the order hitter, and they need a star hitter to build around, and Bryce Harper fits that category."

The Phillies have also been rumored to have interest in Machado, but after a recent trade, they may shift their focus more towards Harper.

"[The Phillies] already traded for Jean Segura, a pretty good hitting shortstop," Kurkjian said. "Which means they should, at least to me, be less engaged on Manny Machado and more engaged on Bryce Harper."

Segura hit .304 for the Seattle Mariners in 2018 and was selected to the AL All-Star team.

Of course, Kurkjian is only speculating at this point, as no one will know where Harper ends up until he inks pen to the paper. Each day, there is a new story.

"This story doesn't change by the day, it changes by the hour," Kurkjian said. "But at this hour, I will say, the Phillies look to me to be the best fit for Bryce Harper."

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