Werth, Harper an atypical but effective top two in the order

Edwin Jackson wasn’t the only veteran Nationals starter to pitch a gem last night.

John Lannan got in on that action, as well, and the lefty, who is still down at Triple-A Syracuse for now, is showing that he’s more than ready to join the Nats once they’re ready to call on him.

For the second straight start, Lannan delivered a complete-game shutout, holding Charlotte scoreless last night, striking out 10 and walking none. This gives Lannan a 20-inning shutout streak.

Once Stephen Strasburg is shut down, which manager Davey Johnson said will likely be after two to three more starts, Lannan will step in and fill out the rotation. And given the run he’s on right now, the Nats should be just fine with the 27-year-old back on a major league mound.

While Lannan and Jackson were dominating on the mound last night, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper were showing just how dynamic a 1-2 punch they can provide at the top of the Nationals’ order when they’re both swinging the bat well.

Over their last two games, Werth and Harper have combined to go 8-for-19 with four home runs and nine RBIs. Last night, Werth reached base four times and the Nationals scored in all four of those innings, with Harper twice driving in runs behind him.

It’s safe to say they’re far from the typical 1-2 combination at the top of the order. Werth is 6-foot-5, 225 lbs. and has spent most of his career hitting fifth. Harper is young, but possesses great strength for his age and has more power potential than the vast majority of the No. 2 hitters in the league.

It might not be a traditional top two in the lineup, but it can give opposing pitchers headaches, especially when the Nats have a potent 3-7 following Werth and Harper in the order.

“I assume it’d be pretty tough,” Werth said. “You get through us and then you’ve got Zim, Mikey, LaRoche, Desi and Espi. That’s tough. It just brings a different dynamic. Your 1-2 guys aren’t your prototypical 1-2 guys. They’re more middle-of-the-order type guys. My best years were hitting fifth. Hit second in ‘08 and won a World Series. Hopefully leading off will be the answer here, but I feel comfortable up there.”

Your prototypical leadoff hitter is usually a speedster, a guy who can smack the ball around, leg out infield hits and put pressure on the opposition. You don’t see Werth’s body type when you think of the leadoff spot.

But since coming off the disabled list Aug. 2, Werth has a slash line of .337/.408/.478. The on-base percentage is the number that jumps out at you the most; any guy that can reach over 40 percent of the time has the potential to be an excellent leadoff hitter.

Jayson-Werth-hitting.jpgAdd in the fact that Werth sees a ton of pitches (“My dad’s been yelling at me to stop taking pitches since I was 8 years old. He just can’t get through to me,” Werth says), has some speed and still brings plenty of pop, and he’s one of the more well-rounded leadoff hitters you’ll find.

Harper will almost certainly settle in as a middle-of-the-order bat before too long, but right now, he’s a dangerous No. 2. When he’s in his patient mode, Harper also sees lots of pitches, gets on base a bunch and can turn on a pitch and drive it with the best of them.

“I really like guys who can get on base and also produce runs,” manager Davey Johnson said. “And both can run, both basically make them throw it over. It’s great.”

I’m pretty sure Johnson didn’t imagine a Werth-Harper top of the order when he walked in for the first day of spring training workouts earlier this year. But Johnson likes what he’s seeing now, and he’s willing to ride it out with those two guys atop his lineup for the rest of this season.

Maybe, even, beyond that.

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