After a brief, series-winning trip to New York, the Washington Nationals (41-40) will kick off a seven-game home stand with a four-game series against Milwaukee Brewers (32-48).
The Brewers are in last place in the NL Central, have a 13-25 away record to the Nationals’ 22-16 home record, and are coming to Washington in the midst of a five-game losing streak. All of those elements craft a tantalizing recipe for success and an excellent opportunity for the Nats to make a bang over the Fourth of July.
The Nationals have won seven of their last 11 games, and though a veritable win streak is still nowhere to be found, a record like that is certainly suggestive of a group of players starting to get their feet under them.
Bryce Bounces Back
With the addition of the Nationals’ favorite 20-year-old slugger, a team that is heating up is about to get hotter.
The Nationals will be reunited with Bryce Harper in the series opener with the Brewers, and after having their best offensive month in June without him, hitting .244/.299/.397, the team can only stand to benefit from having him back in the lineup.
Harper’s activation from the disabled list will put a cap on the stretch of 31 games he missed with a knee injury.
The Nationals went 15-16 in Harper’s absence, but were 25-19 in games he played, a statistical advantage they are likely to want to take advantage of as they enter the heart of the season looking to finally break out of a cycle tethering them to a near-.500 record.
Harper was batting .287/.386/.587 before he went on the DL, and in games prior to his collision with the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium he was hitting an even more impressive .303/.400/.622. During his rehab assignment, he showed his readiness to return to that level of production, going 4-for-11 (.364) with a single, double, triple and home run.
Harper hit 12 home runs with the Nationals through the first two months of the season, and it took an entire month for the rest of the team to surpass his team-leading status.
With Harper in the lineup, the Nationals hit 27 home runs in April and 24 in May. Without him, they hit 24 again in June, suggesting that a team-wide power surge could be in store upon Harper’s return, as his teammates’ slugging percentages are already ticking upward.
For a team that has been mired in offensive troubles for much of the season, the spark that a player such as Harper provides will be a welcome addition.
In The Zone
Kurt Suzuki (C) .389 AVG, .400 OBP, .611 SLG, 1 HR, 5 RBI (last five games)
Juan Francisco (1B) .300 AVG, .333 OBP, .800 SLG, 3 HR (last five games)
Rickie Weeks (2B) .292 AVG, .346 OBP, .625 SLG, 2 HR (last six games)
Logan Schafer (LF) .095 AVG, .174 OBP, .143 SLG, 4 SO (last six games)
Norichika Aoki (RF) .190 AVG, .292 OBP, .238 SLG, 0 SO (last six games)
7/1, Jordan Zimmermann (11-3, 2.28 ERA, .209 BAA, .80 SO) vs. Yovani Gallardo (6-7, 4.20 ERA, .265 BAA, 80 SO)
7/2, Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.41 ERA, .210 BAA, 90 SO) vs. Wily Peralta (5-9, 5.58 ERA, .294 BAA, 51 SO)
7/3, Ross Detwiler (2-6, 4.13 ERA, .315 BAA, 36 SO) vs. Johnny Hellweg (0-1, 27.00 ERA, .500 BAA, 1 SO)
7/4, Taylor Jordan (0-1, 2.08 ERA, .250 BAA, 1 SO) vs. Donovan Hand (0-1, 2.63 ERA, .250 BAA, 14 SO)