Bryce Harper has been fighting it. Since the All-Star break he’s hitting .176 with two homers, 26 strikeouts and 15 walks in 116 plate appearances. He’s also getting frustrated, as Adam Kilgore reports, and will be getting a day off to clear his head:
In the Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Astros on Wednesday, Harper extended his second-half skid by going 0 for 3 with two walks. He twice argued with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez after controversial calls. In the ninth inning, Harper made an ill-advised throw, trying in vain to throw out the tying run at third base while the winning run moved into scoring position. That convinced Johnson that Harper required a break.
To be fair, no one’s arguments with Angel Hernandez should form the basis of any negative judgment given that Hernandez is arguably the most awful umpire around. The called strike three against Harper in the fourth inning was clearly a ball. Both strike two and strike three during his sixth inning strikeout were balls too. Angel’s gonna Angel. It’s a clown strike zone, bro.
But like dog poop in a public park, you gotta learn how to deal with the Angel Hernandezs of the world, and Harper is clearly frustrated at the moment. A day off could do him some good.
The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”
While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.
The deal has not been confirmed by the team.