Bryce Harper isn’t thrilled about the Nationals’ lineup tonight

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Bryce Harper is in the Nationals’ lineup tonight for the first time since he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on April 25. While the 21-year-old is making the start in left field tonight, he offered some pointed comments to Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com this afternoon about where he’d prefer to play.

Basically, Harper believes that he should play center field while Ryan Zimmerman should start in left and Danny Espinosa should start at second base. This would leave Denard Span as the odd-man out. However, Nationals manager Matt Williams has Espinosa on the bench tonight, with Zimmerman at third base and Span in center field.

“I’m in the lineup, that’s all that matters. If I had the lineup it would maybe not be the same. But he’s got the lineup card, he’s got the pen and he knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.

“I think [Zimmerman] is great and he should be playing left. Rendon’s a great third baseman and he should be playing third. And we got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa. Of course you want the best hitting lineup in there, and I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that is good for this team and I think that should be what’s happening.”

No offense, Bryce, but calling Espinosa “one of the best second baseman in the league” is a bit of a stretch. While he is a solid defender, he’s batting just .217/.284/.348 this season and has struck out in nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances.

Williams was informed about Harper’s opinion on the lineup and simply said that he’s “happy to have him back.” It’s worth noting that the Nationals haven’t committed to keeping Harper in left field permanently and had him play all three outfield positions during his minor league rehab assignment, so we’ll likely see some shuffling in the starting lineup in the days to come.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.