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Bryce Harper has quietly gone on a hot streak

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Much was made of Bryce Harper‘s lackluster — by his standards — first half. After a torrid April, Harper hit just .221 with a .293 on-base percentage in May, then followed that up with a .188/.333/.341 June. He went into the All-Star break with an .833 OPS which is good for most hitters, but pedestrian by Harper’s own standards. Many eyes were carefully watching Harper’s stats as the superstar is a free agent after the season and is expected to cash in with a very lucrative contract.

Harper won the Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion and has been hitting the cover off of the ball in 16 games since the break. Entering Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Braves, Harper batted .367/.484/.673 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 62 plate appearances. In five August games, Harper accrued multiple hits in four of them. He stayed hot in the first game of the doubleheader, going 2-for-5 with a solo home run and an RBI single in the Nationals’ 8-3 win.

The Nationals limped into the All-Star break below .500 at 47-48. Though the team didn’t go into an official sell-off mode, GM Mike Rizzo let other teams know he would listen to trade offers for Harper. The Nats have gone 10-6 in the second half thus far and sit only five games back of the first-place Phillies and 3.5 games behind the second-place Braves. If Harper can keep hitting well, he could propel the Nats, the preseason favorites in the division, into first place.

Justin Verlander earns 200th career win

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Astros starter Justin Verlander wasn’t his usual dominant self on Sunday against the Athletics, but he was good enough to get the win. In doing so, he earned the 200th win of his career, becoming the 117th member of the 200-win club.

Verlander went 5 1/3 innings, yielding four runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts. On the season, Verlander is now 12-8 with a 2.65 ERA and a 223/29 K/BB ratio in 169 2/3 innings. Sunday’s win helped the Astros stave off the surging A’s. The Astros now have a one-game lead in the AL West.

Only two active pitchers have more wins than Verlander: Bartolo Colon (247) and CC Sabathia (244). Zack Greinke will likely be the next member of the 200-win club as he currently has 184 to his name.