The Nationals have survived a lot already this year.
The early loss of Adam Eaton for the season.
A shaky bullpen only recently shored up.
The loss of Trea Turner for an extended period.
Stephen Strasburg injury scares.
And yet, those pale in comparison to the sight of all-everything outfielder Bryce Harper stepping awkwardly on first base, flying through the air as if launched out of a cannon and writhing around on the ground in pain, holding his left knee.
That was the scene Saturday, when Harper lost a race to the first base bag in the first inning and potentially lost even more in the split-second after, when his left foot slipped off the bag and sent him flying. Harper was in visible pain for minutes, testing the knee by trying in vain to extend it before being helped off the field, putting no weight on the knee.
“We just ask for prayers that it’s not serious,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said after his team’s 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants. “He was in obvious pain, and he was praying and I was praying, too.”
If there’s good news, it’s that the situation seemed less dire after the game. The Nationals said the 24-year-old had a hyperextended left knee, awaiting the results of an MRI before giving a final designation. And Harper, though not available to the media, was seen limping, but walking, around in the clubhouse after the game.
None of the losses endured or obstacles faced this season would compare to losing Harper for any extended period of time. The right fielder is batting .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs, 87 RBI and 92 runs scored for the Nats, all of which rank among the best in the league in their respective categories.
If Harper is sidelined, it stands to reason that Michael Taylor, who is days away from returning from a rehab assignment, would inherit the lion’s share of Harper’s at-bats. Taylor has been out since July 6 but has been playing in rehab games in recent days as he rounds back into form.
Perhaps it won’t come to that, though. Baker was hopeful the news Sunday morning would be positive.
“The good thing is he’s young and strong,” Baker said. “I’m very optimistic that he’ll be at least fine shortly.”
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Brewers Trade For Neil Walker
The Brewers, conspicuously quiet at the non-waiver trade deadline, added a piece to their middle infield Saturday in hopes of making a run into October.
The team acquired Neil Walker from the Mets in exchange for a player to be named later. The Mets also sent cash to the Brewers in the deal.
The timing of the move is interesting on multiple levels. For one, the position at which Walker was acquired to play, second base, has been manned by Jonathan Villar, who has been a disaster all season but who has shown signs of life at the plate in recent days. Brewers general manager David Stearns didn’t address the playing time issue but did speak to why Walker was targeted by the club.
“I think we’re banking on a professional hitter who has a robust track record of hitting quality pitching, especially from the left side of the plate,” Stearns said. “It took him a little while to get his timing back, but he seems to be back to his normal state right now.”
More interesting is why the team decided to stand pat at the trade deadline, after leading the division as recently as July 25, but make a move the day after it found itself three games out and in third place in the Central. The Brewers were reportedly in on a number of trade discussions but didn’t get any noteworthy deals done before July 31.
Walker was hitting .264/.339/.442 at the time of the deal and does represent an upgrade from what the Brewers have gotten from the keystone this year. And the deal is low-risk enough that it almost can’t end up being too disastrous, regardless of how it plays out.
Beckham Bending Expectations In Baltimore
If it’s fair to question why the Brewers weren’t stronger buyers at the deadline, it’s also fair to wonder why the Orioles were.
After all, they weren’t likely to catch the AL East-leading Red Sox, and a host of teams stood between the O’s and the second Wild Card spot on July 31. The talk had actually been that the team would be sellers, with All-Star closer Zach Britton among the pieces the team had to offer.
So the team’s acquisition of Tim Beckham from the Rays — one of the teams ahead of the Orioles in the standings — came as a surprise. Since then, it’s his play that has been a surprise, a pleasant one for the O’s.
Beckham turned in a four-hit night Saturday, doubling three times, driving in three runs and scoring three himself in a lopsided win over the Athletics. With the good outing, Beckham upped his season line to .295/.344/.478.
He’s been even more impressive as a member of the O’s. Since the trade, the 27-year-old is 26-for-49 with nine multi-hit games. He’s hit safely in all 12 games since the deadline.
At one time viewed as a huge bust, the former No. 1 overall pick might now be the future at shortstop for the Orioles.
National League Quick Hits: Stephen Strasburg (elbow) will make a rehab start Monday for High-A Potomac. He’s scheduled to throw about 75 pitches in that outing. Strasburg tossed a successful bullpen session on Friday and made it through a short simulated game earlier in the week. The former first overall pick should be back in the Nats’ rotation before long … Giants activated RHP Mark Melancon from the 10-day disabled list. Melancon wasn’t overly sharp during his four-game rehab stint (9.82 ERA over 3 2/3 innings) but at least his elbow is no longer bothering him. Sam Dyson will shift to a setup role with Melancon back to resume closer duties … Jacob deGrom (triceps) threw his usual between-starts side session on Saturday. DeGrom left Thursday’s start with a bruised triceps but is already on the mend. He’ll be fine to make his next start Tuesday against the Yankees … The Braves are expected to activate Matt Kemp (hamstring) from the disabled list on Friday. He’ll be back for the start of Atlanta’s nine-game homestand, which begins Friday against Cincinnati. Kemp is far enough along in his recovery that he won’t require a rehab assignment … Rockies signed 1B Ryan Howard to a minor league contract. It’s the first we’ve heard of Howard since the Braves cut him loose in early May. Howard’s power would theoretically play well at Coors Field, though the 37-year-old didn’t show much during an 11-game stint with Triple-A Gwinnett earlier this year (.184 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 38 at-bats). He’ll likely begin his Rockies tenure with Triple-A Albuquerque. The odds of him rediscovering a previous form are very low, but so is the risk for the Rockies. Win-win.
American League Quick Hits: Yankees placed RHP Masahiro Tanaka on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Tanaka didn’t look right in his last start, walking five batters in his four-plus innings of work, and perhaps now we know why … Red Sox placed 2B Dustin Pedroia on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to August 9, with left knee inflammation. Pedroia has been battling the knee injury since late July. Eduardo Nunez is expected to see the bulk of the action at second base while he’s out with Rafael Devers handling third base … Indians manager Terry Francona said Jason Kipnis (hamstring) could return to the lineup as soon as Sunday. Kipnis aggravated a pre-existing hamstring injury on Thursday night but it’s not considered a long-term issue. He’ll be available off the bench on Saturday and should be back in there for Sunday’s series finale against the Rays … Mitch Haniger (face) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday. It will be Haniger’s first game action since being hit in the face last month. He’ll DH for the Rainiers on Saturday, though it shouldn’t be long until he’s ready to play the outfield … Chris Rowley was victorious in his big league debut against the Pirates on Saturday, allowing one run on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. The rookie right-hander walked one and struck out three on the afternoon. The only blemish on his day came on a two-out RBI single by Jordy Mercer in the second inning. Despite the strong start, it’s likely that he’s ticketed for a trip back to Triple-A soon.