WASHINGTON — A worrisome neck injury and five days away from baseball could be the cure for whatever has ailed Bryce Harper this season.
Last Saturday, the Washington Nationals pondered placing the reigning National League MVP on the disabled list with a neck injury, choosing not to after an MRI came back clean. The decision to be patient has paid off.
Since returning to the lineup last Sunday, Harper is hitting 11-for-27 (.407), with three doubles, two home runs, eight walks, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored and an infrequent stolen base. Not only has he returned to form, but this could be the most encouraging clip of an otherwise middling season.
On Wednesday, he launched a tape measure shot 461 feet, the longest home run by a National this season. More importantly, it was Harper first home run in 17 games, his longest such drought in nearly two years. According to SI.com, Harper slashed an anemic .179/.324/.268 in 56 plate appearances between home runs, one of the worst stretches of his career.
But with the Nationals heading to the playoffs and Harper finally healthy, this could be the ideal time for him to put it all together.
With 39 games remaining in the regular season, Harper has time to improve on a slash line that’s 86 points lower in batting average, 74 points lower in on-base percentage and 198 points lower in slugging, year over year.
More importantly, the team also performs better when he produces.
Harper has gone hitless in 45 games this season, and the Nats are 22-23 (.489) in those games. He has one hit in 45 games this season, and the Nats are 27-18 (.600) in those games. He has two or more hits in 21 games this season, and the Nats are (.762) in those games.
If Harper can find a way to play like it’s 2015 during the last five weeks of the season, the Nationals should be a force to be reckoned with in October.