The Nationals dropped the series opener against the Yankees last night in D.C., but they remain one of the most interesting stories in baseball this season.
Adam LaRoche has played a big part in the Nationals’ early success, hitting .261 with 11 homers, 42 RBI and an .848 OPS through 56 games after being limited to just 43 games last year due to shoulder surgery.
The veteran first baseman made an appearance on NBC Sports Talk last night, where he talked about what he sees in 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper, the possibility of playing in the postseason and whether the Nationals should shut down Stephen Strasburg if they are making a run. It’s not too hard to guess what he thinks about that last one.
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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.