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Harper creating distance in quest for batting title

Sep 18, 2015, 10:34 AM EDT

USA Today

With Bryce Harper already at the 40-home run mark and in pursuit of a likely NL MVP award, perhaps overlooked in his historic season is his chance for another rare and impressive accomplishment. With two more hits on Thursday night, Harper raised his NL-best batting average to .340. The first batting title in Nationals team history is well within reach.

Reinforcing that thought was the fact Marlins All-Star Dee Gordon was also on the field on Thursday. Gordon is second in the NL with a .333 average and had two hits himself in the game. But with the way Harper has been heating up, it’s his award to lose.

Through 16 games in September, Harper is batting .423. That’s up from his .327 average in August and his .300 mark in July. He reached the .340 mark on Thursday for the first time since July 12.

That day, July 12th, Harper actually mentioned the .340 mark as a specific goal for him this season.

“I’m pretty upset I dropped below .340 today, so hopefully I improve that,” he said.

It took Harper 59 games to get back, but the Nats’ right-fielder was not interested in talking about that number or the possibility of winning a batting title after Thursday’s loss.

“I really don’t give a crap about my accolades or anything like that. I’m gonna play and I’m gonna play hard. At the end of the year, my numbers will be there and votes will be votes and whatever,” he said.

Harper will surely be able to appreciate his season once it is over, as he is on pace to join some exclusive company, particularly in D.C. baseball history. He could become the fifth player in Washington history to win a batting title and the first in 62 years.

1928 – Goose Goslin – .379
1935 – Buddy Myer – .349
1946 – Mickey Vernon – .353
1953 – Mickey Vernon – .337

Harper is almost certain to finish this season with the best batting average in Nationals history. The current record is Dmitri Young, who hit .320 in 2007. Harper, in fact, has a chance to catch the Nats/Expos franchise record of .345, set by Vladimir Guerrero in 2000. Only one other player in franchise history has hit .340 or higher, Hubie Brooks in 1986.

Harper is on pace to have the best batting average by a National League player since 2010. Only three of the last 10 winners of the NL batting title have hit above .338.

Harper has been particularly hot over the last 30 days. In 29 games since Aug. 18, Harper has raised his batting average from .326 to .340. Through that stretch he has batted .385 with 10 homers, 19 RBI and a 1.315 OPS.

Nine of those homers have actually come in his last 13 games, something Harper says is a result of being more selective at the plate.

“I just think I’m trying to still have good at-bats and still look for the pitch I want to hit. I’m still walking when I can. I’m swinging at that 2-0 pitch now which I haven’t been in a couple weeks. I’m swinging at that 3-1 again now. That’s been tough because 2-0, I haven’t really got a pitch over the plate to swing at so I’ve just been taking it,” he said.

Harper is aware of his numbers, but he insists his focus is primarily on other things. At least for now that is, while the Nats continue to cling to their longshot playoff hopes.

“Everybody’s gonna expect 40 a year every time I play now. 40 homers without a whole lineup I guess all year, that’s the only thing I can say that’s something where I’m pretty proud of myself to be able to have the games, have the walks, have the ability to stay in games and really just do the things I can to help this team win.”

  1. Drew - Sep 18, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    I sure hope Bryce wins the MVP. I’m
    still ticked about how Hondo got robbed in 1970.

    Boog Powell hit 35 home runs, knocked in 114, hit .297 and had a .962 OPS.

    Frank led the league in home runs (44), RBIs (126) and walks (132) and hit .283 No one knew it at the time, but Frank and Boog had the same OPS, .962.

    But Boog played on a great team. Guess who got the hardware?

    • senators69 - Sep 18, 2015 at 4:22 PM

      I’m with you bro, especially since the Sens were back on the radar screen after Teddy Ballgame came on board as manager. Hondo greatly underappreciated. I remember his last hit in 1971 – last game for the Sens! Very sad.

  2. Ellie - Sep 18, 2015 at 11:11 AM

    I’m still holding out hope he’ll have a completely ridiculous game like 3 HR, 10 RBI and actually put himself in the running for the triple crown.

    • jd - Sep 18, 2015 at 11:49 AM

      Yeah, that’s not happening. He will however win the MVP.

  3. Section 222 - Sep 18, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    Apologies for the tardiness of this 18-gamer. It was a hard one to get psyched up to do, to be honest. But reading a post about the greatness of Bryce Harper always lifts my spirits. Mark, can we have one of these every day until the season’s over?

    And now back to the cold reality of the Nats….

    After the last 18 game stretch, a lackluster 8-10, the Nats were 6.5 games behind the Mets, with 36 games to play. The MMN was 30. The NL East was still winnable, but we all knew it would take a really strong finish to do it, with a lot of luck thrown in because the Mets were playing very well and seemed unlikely to fold. Still, with 6 head to head games to play, there was no reason to give up hope entirely, and the fan base surely had not done so.

    The 8th of 9 18-gamers this season showed us pretty clearly what the 2015 Nationals are — a team able to beat up on bad opponents but not able to consistently handle good ones – essentially a middle of the pack team. Within this set of games, the Nats took a series from the Marlins, lost a series against the Cardinals, swept a four game set from the Braves, were swept by the Mets, lots a series against the Marlins and won the first two games of what became a sweep of the Phillies. They finished 10-8, basically what you’d expect an average team would do against the schedule they faced. On the season, our 18 game sets have gone as follows:

    7-11, 12-6, 10-8, 10-8, 10-8, 7-11, 8-10, 10-8.

    Whether our season hopes died after the first, second, or third game of the infamous Collins/Cespedes/Mets sweep of the MW/Storen/Nats, it was all over but the shouting by the time the 18-game set was complete. The Nats were just 4 games over .500 at 74-70, and trailed the Mets by 8.5 games. With the MMN down to a measly 10 at the end of the stretch (now 9), only a miracle will give us baseball in October at Nats Park.

    The Pope’s coming to town next week…

    • trfwans - Sep 18, 2015 at 11:44 AM

      But unlike his predecessor, he’s coming nowhere near Nats Park, albeit near enough to eff up the traffic for the games against the O’s. Bet that O’s fans still post for this game though, while most Nats fans stay home. The promise of a Cal bobblehead will be more than enough for them to fight their way through the traffic.

  4. alexva6 - Sep 18, 2015 at 1:31 PM

    when will MLB do the right thing and declare the city as the franchise. saying Walter Johnson has the most wins in Twins history is ridiculous. I know it’s about money but sometimes you need to rise above.

  5. Whack-A-Mule - Sep 18, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    A Plea for Perspective on All This Nonsense About “Franchise”:`
    ________________________________________________

    No more about “Franchise”, please. We are not the Montreal Expos “Franchise”, any more than the
    Texas Rangers or the Minnesota Twins are the “Nats Franchise”.

    Washington baseball is about, well . . .Washington baseball.
    Washington , D.C. remains one of the original 10 cities in the Modern Era of baseball
    (i.e. post-1903, with the affiliation of the National and American Leagues).

    There has been “Nationals baseball” in Washington, D.C. since 1903 (albeit not continuously).
    The team here was “The Washington Nationals Baseball Club” until 1953, when the secondary
    nickname “Senators” was introduced into the corporation. Even then, the team was “The Nats” to
    the sportswriters and to the cognoscenti , up to and including the year of the “second leaving” (1971).

    There is no such thing as “franchise history”. What happened in Montreal stays in Montreal.
    As an original city in the modern baseball era (along with Boston, New York (includes Brooklyn), Philadelphia,
    Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago & St. Louis) we cannot be burdened with the false memories
    of the “franchise concept”.

    Vladimir Guerrero never played for Washington, never played for the Nats.
    Goose Goslin, Buddy Myer and Mickey Vernon all played for both Washington AND the Nats.
    These men are the true spiritual ancestors of Bryce Harper.

    • Ellie - Sep 18, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      Agreed. I’m not from Montreal, I’m from DC. I never followed the Expos because why would I have?

      The only case I’d make for maintaining franchise as opposed to team records is where the name hasn’t changed – Dodgers, Giants, Barves, and A’s can at least make a case for retaining their entire histories (or it’s at least harder to justify ignoring old records). There’s a certain continuity, even though the teams moved around.

      But the Orioles, Nats, Twins, Rangers, and Brewers all got new names when they relocated to their current cities, so they should have a clean slate. Let the cities keep the history. It’s not like people relocate, too, when the teams they root for do.

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