Bryce Harper successfully hurdled the first obstacle simply by making his return from a six-week absence due to a knee injury. After being eased in for five innings in his first contest since Aug. 12, Harper looks to continue to work out the kinks Wednesday as the Washington Nationals play the rubber match of their three-game series against the host Philadelphia Phillies.
The 2015 National League Most Valuable Player was “like a little kid on opening Little League day,” said manager Dusty Baker, who plans to incorporate Harper into game action as if it were spring training in hopes he’s ready to go full throttle in the NL Division Series. Former Phillie Howie Kendrick belted a solo shot in Washington’s 4-1 loss on Tuesday and is 2-for-3 with a homer versus series finale starter Mark Leiter Jr. Philadelphia’s Tommy Joseph has tormented Washington this season, collecting two hits on Tuesday to improve to 15-for-47 with three homers, 10 RBIs and nine runs scored versus the Nationals. The 26-year-old is 5-for-15 with a solo homer in his career against Wednesday starter Tanner Roark.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, MASN (Washington), CSN Philadelphia
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Tanner Roark (13-10, 4.41 ERA) vs. Phillies RH Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.69)
Roark has dominated the Phillies since the start of the 2016 season, posting a 4-0 mark with a 1.87 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. The 30-year-old overcame two homers and three runs overall in six innings of a 4-3 win over Philadelphia on Sept. 7. Roark answered that performance with another strong six-inning effort, but sustained the loss on Thursday despite yielding three runs over seven innings of a 3-2 setback at Atlanta.
Leiter owned a 2-4 mark in his previous six starts before receiving a no-decision on Thursday despite allowing one earned run in six innings versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 26-year-old was taken deep once by the Dodgers and has surrendered seven homers in September, during which he owns a 7.17 ERA in four starts. Leiter’s lone win this month came at the expense of Washington, as he overcame a pair of blasts and four runs total in a 5-4 victory on Sept 9.
1. Washington is locked into the second seed in the playoffs and will host the NL Central champion - either the Chicago Cubs or Milwaukee - in the division series.
2. Phillies C Cameron Rupp, who had a two-run double Tuesday, is 11-for-36 with two homers, nine RBIs and five runs scored versus the Nationals this season.
3. Nationals SS Trea Turner is 1-for-9 in the series and 10-for-57 versus Philadelphia this season.
PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Phillies 2