|Photo by USA Today|
At 64-64 through 128 games, and with over a month left in the season, the Nationals have plenty of time to make a run and finish with a winning record. But just topping the .500 mark isn't enough to call this year a success, especially given preseason expectations to win a World Series.
As a result, Bryce Harper is dealing with life on a struggling team, really for the first time ever. His junior travel team won two national titles, his high school team dominated and his college team went 52-16 the only year he played.
Harper admits it is a bit different going to the ballpark every day when you're not in the thick of a division race.
"Mentally it's grinding because we're not winning right now," Harper told Mark Zuckerman in their weekly sit-down on Wednesday.
"It's kind of tough. But you just gotta go in every single night and try to play hard. Try to win ballgames. Especially late because we want to try and have the best last month."
Being on the .500 Nationals is as close as Harper's been to playing on a losing team. He is so used to winning, he can't even remember being on a team that wasn't good.
"Earlier in my career, when I was younger? We never lost," he said. "We were the best team in the country. We never lost, ever. I've never been on a losing team or anything like that. It's never been tough or anything like that. I've never lost, ever."
Harper's had his own ups and downs this season. After beginning the year with a scorching start in April, he hasn't been the same player in the months since. He ran into walls in Atlanta and Los Angeles back in May, causing bursitis in his left knee, and spent five weeks on the disabled list.
Despite returning from the DL on July 1, Harper still feels the effects of his knee. He may not be always playing in pain, but his timing and feel at the plate still aren't where he would like them to be.
"My first month was pretty dang good," he said. "It was kind of tough after I hit the wall, it kind of went downhill from there. I haven't felt as strong everyday. I've been struggling a little bit, trying to get into rhythm again and trying to do things the right way."
Harper remains in the Nats' lineup on a daily basis as they move through the last week of August. The Nationals have 34 games remaining and Harper hopes to finish the year strong.
"We still got a month left, so we're going to keep trying, keep grinding, and see where we're at at the end."