Bryce Harper is back!
So what if he went 0-2 with a walk on Tuesday in the Washington Nationals’ 4-1 loss to Philadelphia. After missing 42 games with a knee bone bruise, the outfielder returned with six games remaining before the playoffs. That’s all that matters.
Is it enough time, though?
Harper’s swing looked good, despite a strikeout and popup after drawing a walk. His knee felt fine while running down the first base line. That’s all that matters.
Mike Rizzo: ‘No Hesitancy’ in Harper Return
The Nats can win the World Series this season, but it would be a whole lot easier with Harper playing well. His contract ends after the 2018 season, so this might be Washington’s last chance for a title with him should another team offer a deal that starts to sound like ‘billion.’
Harper likes a big room and upcoming playoffs against the Chicago Cubs and maybe Los Angeles Dodgers gives Harper the chance to greatly increase his 2019 value. That and he loves to win — could bring an epic performance.
The Nats were fine without Harper since he slipped on a wet first base, but they’re not the same despite one of the better lineups in baseball. Harper is the one who knocks. The one who instantly changes games and alters how pitchers attack those in front of him.
Pitching and defense win playoff games more than offense, but the Nats need Harper batting third to protect the second and fourth hitters. And given a lineup that runs Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor, there are no easy outs. It’s just that Harper brings the pow factor midway through the lineup.
And now a team that has fought injuries throughout the season is finally together again. World Series chances rarely come, but maybe with Harper the fall classic will finally return to Washington.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.