Harper, like Trout, has energized Nationals’ power play

Outfielder Bryce Harper rested for eight innings Sunday. Back in the lineup Monday, he picked up where he left off with an RBI single in the first inning that scored Steve Lombardozzi.

Harper finished 3-4 with two runs, a walk, a stolen base and an RBI, and is now hitting .295.

.295? Yes, this rookie is here to stay.

There was a recent article in USA Today about how important rookie Mike Trout was to the Angels’ turnaround, saying that Trout had more of an impact on his team’s play than Harper has had with D.C.: “...(Trout) has affected his club in a way Harper has not.”

The argument could be made that the Nationals’ pitching has been a major reason for the team’s first-place success. But I beg to differ that Harper has not also had a major effect on the team’s play, its aggressiveness and attitude, similar to what Trout has done in Anaheim.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Harper has not missed a beat, even with almost a whole game off Sunday in Boston.

“He is the same,” Johnson said. “I chat with him during the ballgame. I say to him, ‘You are moving to center and you are moving back to right.’ He jokes with me. He is dead serious when he is up there but he is having a good time on the ballclub.”

Harper played right field against the Blue Jays and has been moved around in center or right field a lot the last few games, especially with defensive substitutions. Johnson said Harper joked with him about where he was going to play defense Monday.

“He said he was hoping I would leave him longer in center field because he hadn’t made friends with all the people out there yet,” Johnson said. “He is friends with the ones in right but he needs to work on the ones in center a little longer.”

* The Nationals caught a huge break when Brandon Morrow unfortunately got hurt. But can an argument be made that the Nats get pitchers to try to overthrow because of how good they are playing now?

* Something about June and winning with the Nationals. Last year, the Nationals had their longest win streak in June, and then Jim Riggleman resigned.

* Earlier this season, the Nationals couldn’t buy a run in the first inning. Now, it seems almost every game, the Nationals score first in the first.

* What is with the Nationals against the American League East? Nats now 5-2 against the A.L. East so far this season.

* Don’t you think the All-Star Game has to invite Bryce Harper to at least the home run derby?

* Edwin Jackson reminded everyone how good a pitcher he is with Monday’s performance. Really major kudos for general manager Mike Rizzo for bringing in a guy with a ton of experience in big games.

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