Nats fans familiar with Harper's postseason heroics

Nationals fans are seeing something very familiar this October. It just might sting because it’s happening with a National League East rival.

Bryce Harper is once again putting on a show during the postseason. Only this time, he’s doing it with the Phillies in his first trip to the postseason with his new team since signing a then-record 13-year, $330 million deal before the 2019 season.

Finally healthy and with a strong supporting cast around him, Harper helped the Phillies reach their first postseason since 2011. He hit a go-ahead solo home run in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series against the Cardinals to seal a sweep over St. Louis and the first playoff series win of his career. He went 8-for-16 in the National League Division Series against the defending world champion Braves, including a home run apiece in Games 3 and 4 at Citizens Bank Park, to help the Phillies advance in four games to their first National League Championship Series since 2010.

Entering Tuesday at the start of NLCS and before the conclusion of the Guardians-Yankees American League Division Series, Harper led this postseason (among players who have played in at least four games) with a 1.437 OPS, .957 slugging percentage, .435 average, 10 hits, six extra-base hits and 22 total bases. He was also tied for first with three doubles and three home runs, second with six RBIs, tied for third with six runs scored, and fourth with a .480 on-base percentage.

Over the first two games in the NLCS against the Padres, he has gone 3-for-8 with a go-ahead home run in Game 1 and a multi-hit game with a double in Game 2. He has also scored a run in each game.

Among players who have played in at least four games, Harper still leads this postseason in average (.419), OPS (1.390), hits (13), doubles (four) and extra-base hits (eight). He is tied for the lead in home runs (four) and RBIs (seven).

As mentioned, Nats fans have seen this kind of October production from Harper before.

During his first postseason series in the 2012 NLDS against the Cardinals, Harper hit an RBI triple and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's ensuing double in the first inning, and added a leadoff home run in the third inning of Game 5 to give the Nats a 3-0 lead.

Of course, we know how that game eventually ended, but that was the start of Harper shining on the big stage.

In the 2014 NLDS against the Giants, he seemed to be the Nats’ only source of offense. He went 5-for-17 (.294) with a double, three home runs, four RBIs and two walks to post a 1.251 OPS. You’ll remember that series as the start of the bad blood between him and reliever Hunter Strickland, whom Harper took deep twice.

Harper didn’t have as much flair for the dramatic in the 2016 NLDS against the Dodgers, nor in the 2017 NLDS against the Cubs, combining for only one home run and four RBIs between the two series. But he still produced at the plate during tough postseason matchups, recording at least one hit in four of the five games against the Dodgers and in three of the five games against the Cubs, including a multi-hit outing in Game 5. Against Los Angeles, he also scored in three games, including two runs in a Game 3 win, while walking as often as he struck out (six apiece).

He struggled more against Chicago, scoring only two runs and having a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But the more impressive feat was that he was playing at all after suffering a scary hyperextended left knee in August that kept him out of action until late September.

In 19 playoff games with the Nationals, Harper slashed .211/.315/.487 with an .801 OPS, 12 runs scored, four doubles, one triple, five home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 walks and 23 strikeouts. Some of those numbers were bogged down by three hitless games as a rookie in 2012.

Even though he never won a playoff series with the Nats, he provided some of the most dramatic moments in Nats postseason history (outside of the 2019 World Series run, of course). Those shouldn’t be forgotten.

Now he’s doing it again, but this time with the Phillies. And it’s all right if Nats fans don’t think of these moments as fondly.

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