The Nationals could bench Bryce Harper for tonight’s game

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The Nationals have scored three runs in two games and 27 innings and tonight they face one of the toughest lefties in baseball in Madison Bumgarner. Between the bad offense and the possibility of playing a better matchup by starting right hander Ryan Zimmerman, someone — probably a lefty — has gotta be benched. The candidates are Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Adam LaRoche.

Zimmerman will not play third base, Adam Kilgore reports. Mostly because of his arm but also because, dudes, Anthony Rendon is the only Nat who has been hitting. That means he either plays left field with Harper moving to center and Span sitting, left field with Harper sitting or first base with LaRoche sitting.  Looks like Harper could be the odd man out:

The Nationals’ other, more remote option includes benching Span, playing Harper in center field and Zimmerman in left. Williams seemed to suggest Span would play, saying facing Bumgarner may actually help break his slump.

“Sometimes lefty-lefty matchups get guys back on line a little bit,” Williams said. “So we’ll see how the lineup shakes out and if he’s in there, hopefully that can get him back on line, and we hope ready for Game 4 and beyond.”

Which, whatever dude. Small sample size matchups don’t mean a ton, but Harper is 3 for 9 with a homer off Bumgarner. More importantly, he’s the better hitter overall and I’m not sure why you’d use a playoff elimination game to jump-start Span. That’s what you do in July, not October. If Span plays and Zimmerman handles first, well, you’re sitting LaRoche. He’s obviously not great against lefties, but he has pop which is more than you say for Span. A final consideration: Doug Fister is on the mound. He’s a ground ball pitcher, making outfield defense way less important. If Harper has to track down crap in the gaps in center, well, you got other problems.

Lineups will be out in a couple of hours, I presume. One hopes that a team struggling to score runs puts forth a lineup with its best hitters in it. But Matt Williams hasn’t made all the moves people would hope he’d make this series, so who knows?

Pete Alonso sets new NL rookie record with 40th home run

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With a ninth-inning solo home run off of Royals pitcher Jacob Barnes on Sunday, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso set a new National League rookie record for home runs in a single season. He now has 40 with 36 games left in the regular season.

Cody Bellinger, currently the home run leader with 42, hit 39 home runs in his rookie season in 2017, holding the record until today. The major league record is 52, set by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge also in 2017. Judge had broken Mark McGwire’s record of 49 hit in 1987.

Alonso went 3-for-4 with a walk, an RBI double, and three runs scored along with the homer. He’s now batting .271 with a .979 OPS with 40 homers and 95 RBI on the season.

With their 11-5 win over the Royals, the Mets improved to 64-60. They have the same exact record as the Phillies and Brewers, sitting 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card.