Bryce Harper made history over the weekend, unfortunately it did not help his team’s cause. Washington was swept in a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs, a matchup of two National League powerhouses.
On Sunday, in a 4-3 loss in 13 innings, Harper reached base seven times without an official at-bat, setting the MLB record. He was walked six times and was hit by a pitch. The only other player in the last 100 years to reach base six times without an official at-bat was Jimmie Fox in 1938. He tied the MLB record for walks in a game, with the last player doing so being Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros in 1999. Harper was walked a total of 13 times in the four-game series against the Cubs, which also set an MLB record.
Harper was compared in the early goings of the season to Barry Bonds and after Sunday, the comparisons once again popped up. Bonds, who has the most walks in MLB history, only ever walked 10 times in a single season. Harper is getting the Bonds treatment, where the opposition refuses to let him beat him with his bat.
At such a young age, that is quite the compliment from opponents and shows what kind of respect Harper has from his peers and opposing managers. The Cubs wanted to eliminate the possibility of Harper launching balls over the fence and it paid off.
In the four-game series, Chicago outscored Washington 25-16. The Cubs are now 24-6, the best record in all of baseball. They lead the Pittsburgh Pirates by 7.5 games in the NL Central. Washington dropped to 19-12 and are now trail the New York Mets by a half-game in the NL East.
In yesterday’s game, the Nats were able to chase Cubs ace Jake Arrieta after five innings, which isn’t common these days with the way Arrieta has pitched over his last 26 starts. However, it wasn’t enough as the two team battled into the 13th inning before Javier Baez decided to send the hometown crowd home happy with a walk-off solo home run.
The Cubs were a heavy World Series favorite this season and the Nats found out why in this four-game series. Along with outscoring Washington by nine runs, Chicago had a better team batting average at .298 while the Nats hit just .204. The Cubs also hit more home runs (7-3) and their starters had a better ERA (2.74/5.40).
For the Nationals, this is nothing to panic about. They got a glimpse of what they could see down the road, potentially in the playoffs and can now go about their business dealing with NL East foes. The Nats knew they were going to be in a season-long fight with the divisional rival Mets to determine the division winner.
The best way the Nationals can bounce back from the four-game sweep is to put it behind them and get ready for a seven-game home stand against the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins. Those two team are teams that Washington should beat, especially trying to stay neck and neck with the Mets. Speaking of the Metropolitans, the Nats will have two series against the divisional foe in the span of a week. The first meeting of the season between the two teams will come next Tuesday, the 17th with a three-game series in the Big Apple.
While Harper’s history-making weekend is bizarre, yet fascinating, it did not help his team against the best team in baseball. However, that is a small bump in the road of the season that is just over a month old. There is plenty of time for Washington to bounce back and that starts Monday night when the Detroit Tigers pay a visit to Nationals Park for a three-game series.