It was a little over a year ago that Cole Hamels decided to welcome Bryce Harper to the major leagues in his own special way - by drilling Harper in the back with a 93 mph fastball.
Harper took his lumps like a champ, merely turning away and jogging to first base, never turning to look at Hamels, and then responded by stealing home later in the inning.
The old pals will be reunited today at Nationals Park, when the Nats and Phillies square off in the rubber game of this three-game set.
This will actually be the fourth time that Harper and Hamels have met since that headline-grabbing May 6 matchup last year. Harper finished off that game by going 2-for-3 with a double off Hamels, and while Harper has generally struggled against left-handed pitching in his career (he’s hitting .226 against southpaws, as compared to .297 against righties), he’s hit Hamels well.
In total, Harper has stepped in 15 times against Hamels, and has posted a slash line of .385/.467/.462 with a double and an RBI.
Over his career, Hamels has posted more wins against the Nationals than any other opponent.
Today’s starter for the Nats, Stephen Strasburg, is winless in his three career starts against the Phillies, although the Nats are 2-1 in those games.
Strasburg comes into today’s outing having allowed two earned runs or less in seven of his 10 starts this season.
Some trends working against the Nats today: They’re just 2-4 in rubber games this year and are only 1-6 on Sundays.
Given the way the Nats have struggled offensively, it might not surprise you to hear that the Nats have now put up back-to-back games with double-digit hit totals for the first time in over six weeks.
The last time the Nats put up consecutive games with at least 10 hits came when they played the White Sox in April. They reached the 10-hit mark three straight times during that series.
Despite putting up 11 hits yesterday, the Nats went just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Those numbers won’t make anyone in the home clubhouse happy, but they can take solace in the fact that, at least for the last two days, their bats have shown some signs of waking up.
“It’s baby steps,” Ian Desmond said. “We haven’t been swinging the bats really at all, so to put up 11 hits is good. The next thing we tackle is hitting with runners in scoring position. A lot of that came with two outs. Two-out RBIs are never gimmies, especially against a good team like this that we know so well.”
This season, the Nats are hitting .230 with runners on base and two outs, actually a tick above their overall season team batting average of .229. But with runners in scoring position and two outs, the Nats are hitting just .201 (fourth-worst in the majors) and reaching base at a .285 clip (third-worst).