The last time the Nationals and Phillies met, the series produced, in no particular order: two hit batters, one intentionally, warned dugouts, a fuming and fined general manager, a suspended pitcher, a broken wrist and plenty of boos.
Monday through Wednesday is Act II. The Nationals will face the Phillies in Philadelphia, and many will be curious to see how teenage phenom Bryce Harper, the target of that intentional ball in the backside that led to the five-game suspension of Phillies starter Cole Hamels, is treated by those fans on the road.
“Hopefully I get a couple boos,” Harper said after Sunday’s 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles and whose comments might end up on a Phillies fan’s poster. “That’d be awesome. I’m excited to get up there and play and hopefully they don’t throw any batteries or whatnot at me.”
Asked if he had any lingering feelings about what happened when they played in early May, Harper, who handled himself well after being intentionally pegged by Hamels, brushed off the notion.
“I don’t really care,” he said. “I’m just trying to go in there and get a some W’s. They’ve got a great pitching staff, we’ve got a great pitching staff. It’s going to be a fun three days in Philly and I’m excited to get going.”
Since he has been in the major leagues, Harper’s bravado has existed only the field. He’s a stretch-a-single-into-a-double-type player whose energy, speed and patience at the plate earned him the second spot in the Nationals lineup. But it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Harper won’t be giving a little extra or swinging a little harder on Monday, hoping he can make an impact for the Nationals in Philadelphia.
The Phillies have improved since the Nationals won the series earlier this month. After not long ago falling to four games under .500 and 6.5 games out of first place in the National League East, the Phillies have played better, enough to even their record at 21-21; they are five games out. Since they faced the Nationals, the Phillies are 7-5, with the benefit of having faced teams with losing records such as the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and San Diego Padres.
“I think everybody knew early on that wasn’t going to last for long,” Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the Phillies’ improvement. “That’s a great team, even with a couple of their big guys hurt. Great pitching. They have a knack for getting big hits and scoring runs, so it’s going to be tough. They’re starting to come around, and it’ll be another battle for us.”
FROM THE POST
Stephen Strasburg does it all in a 9-3 win over the Orioles: strike out eight, survive a bad first two innings, hit a homer and single, and overcome a tired arm.
This weekend at Nationals Park featured big crowds, homers and winning teams, writes Thomas Boswell.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
Strasburg’s arm discomfort is considered minor, Manager Davey Johnson says.
Ryan Zimmerman is heating up at the plate.
Saturday’s home crowd was the second-largest in Nationals Park history.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Toledo 5, Syracuse 2: Starter Yunesky Maya allowed only one run on two hits over seven innings.
Harrisburg 4, Bowie 0: Two players — Tim Pawhuta and Charles Rahl — each drove in two runs.
Potomac 4, Carolina 2: Right fielder Randolph Oduber had two hits to raise his slugging percentage.
Delmarva 3, Hagerstown 0: Third baseman Matthew Skole and designated hitter J.P. Martinez each finished with a hit.