The Nationals are looking pretty scary right now

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I’m loathe to ever say a team “made a statement.” There are a lot of damn baseball games, see, so no “statement” can last much more than 24 hours. For example, if the Giants come back and kick the poop out of the Nats tonight and tomorrow afternoon, that statement would be something like “pardon me, I seem to have stepped on your toe, oh, don’t get up … OW!! Stop Kicking me!”

That said, the Nats sort of made a statement last night.

In a possible playoff preview, Washington destroyed San Francisco, 14-2, batting the NL’s ERA leader Ryan Vogelsong for eight runs on nine hits in two and a two-thirds. The Nats led 14-0 after five. Their 21 hits were the most ever for an opponent at AT&T Park.

Overall, the Nats’ dominance is becoming clear. The win was their 11th in 13 games. On this current road trip they are 7-1. They have baseball’s best record, its second largest division lead and its best run differential. Since the All-Star break they have also scored more runs than anyone.

They look pretty good, on the whole, against NL contenders as well.  On the season they are 8-4 against the Braves, their closest division rival. They are 5-2 against Cincinnati. They’ve beaten the Giants, soundly, in all four games they’ve played. They’ve taken four of six from the Dbacks. The Dodgers have handled them, however and they’ve lost three of five to the Pirates. They’ve yet to play the Cardinals.

Obviously the playoffs are a different beast — and I still think the decision to go voluntarily bench Stephen Strasburg in October will haunt them — but at the moment everything is coming up Nationals.

Bryce Harper defeats Kyle Schwarber 19-18 to win the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.

Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.

Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.