Nationals Report

Less playing time for Harper?

The numbers don't lie. Since a red-hot start to his career in May and June, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has hit a rough patch. That's probably to be expected for a kid who is still just 19 and wasn't supposed to be in the major leagues until later in the summer. But entering Saturday, Harper is batting .196 with a .271 on-base percentage and a .595 OPS the second half of the season. That ugly OPS ranks eighth worst in the sport during that stretch among players with at least 125 at-bats. It's clear at this point that Harper is trying to do too much.

Given how well outfielder Roger Bernadina and utility man Steve Lombardozzi have hit in August, is it about time to get those two some more playing time at the expense of Harper?

"I always think about all those things. That's what my job is," Johnson said. "It's my job to try to find ways to get these young guys that have been playing now that I've got a regular lineup, I'll have to try to get them in. Nothing has gone on in my head on how to do it yet."

- Brian McNally

MLB STORYLINES

1

Out west » The Bay Area's two baseball teams got hit hard over the last two weeks with the news that Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera and A's pitcher Bartolo Colon both received 50-game suspensions for enhanced levels of testosterone. Cabrera was San Francisco's second-best hitter with a .906 OPS and 46 extra-base hits. Colon, 39, had a 3.43 ERA for Oakland, which is making a surprise run at the playoffs. The A's at least had the small consolation of lefty Brett Anderson returning from Tommy John surgery this month. He gave up one run in seven innings in his season debut Tuesday against Minnesota.

2

An important run » If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to make another postseason run, it will start this weekend with a 10-game road trip to NL Central leader Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, itself battling for a wild-card spot, and Washington, which has the best record in the majors. But with a major league best plus-126 run differential entering Saturday, the Cardinals aren't exactly a team you want to see in the wild-card game or the division series. That schedule is tricky, however, with a second series against the Nats at home, the Dodgers on the road and three more with the Reds to end the season..

3

Is 50 the new 40? » Roger Clemens, retired since 2007, announced this week that he will pitch for his hometown Sugar Land Skeeters, a team based in suburban Houston from the independent Atlantic League. There was initial speculation that Clemens was using his scheduled start Saturday as a way to show big league scouts he can still pitch. And the Houston Astros, one of four teams Clemens played for, said they would be open to him returning. Clemens did tell ESPN Radio's Scott Van Pelt that this is not a prelude to a comeback. But he didn't emphatically rule it out, either.

who's HOT

1. Yadier Molina » The Cardinals catcher was hitting .444 in August entering Saturday.

2. Jim Johnson » Baltimore's closer has converted nine consecutive saves.

3. Dexter Fowler » The Rockies center fielder was batting .364 in August entering Saturday.

Who's NOT

1. Hunter Pence » Since being traded to San Francisco he was hitting .198 entering Saturday.

2. Dan Uggla » The Braves second baseman was batting .205 in August entering Saturday.

3. C.J. Wilson » The Angels lefty has allowed 13 earned runs in his last two starts.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com