The Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals entered the 2015 season with lofty expectations that largely revolved around a division title and at minimum, a trip to the World Series. The Nationals made headlines in the offseason by signing Max Scherzer, while the Dodgers overhauled their front office and a good chunk of their roster.
Of the six games played between Los Angeles and Washington, the Dodgers came away victorious in four of the contests; with all four wins coming on the backs of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. As they’ve done to others this season, the pair of aces overwhelmed the Nationals and in particular, Bryce Harper.
The 22-year-old outfielder called Kershaw the best pitcher in the game after going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against the three-time Cy Young Award winner on July 18. Harper wasn’t as complimentary of Greinke the following day, crediting some of the right-hander’s success to pitcher-friendly strike zone.
However, when recently discussing who he would give his vote to for National League MVP, Harper named Greinke, according to Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports:
Probably (Zack) Greinke,” Harper said, after a few moments to consider the options. “He’s had such a great year. He’s had a sub-2.00 all year long, sub-1.72 ERA all year long. He’s absolutely carving, still. He’s doing exactly what Clayton Kershaw did last year, so if Clayton deserved it last year, I’d have to say Greinke if not me.”
Harper went on to express his admiration for Greinke’s personality and demeanor on the mound:
I think it’s really cool,” Harper says of Greinke’s panache. “I think it’s actually a lot of fun to see and the thing about him, too, if someone hits a home run off him and flips a bat, (he doesn’t) care. It’s good.”
Harper’s comments came before Greinke’s seven scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon. He improved to 14-3 on the season, and lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.61 in the process.
With the regular season winding down, it’s not outlandish to state both the Dodgers and Nationals haven’t quite lived up to their respective billing. However, that’s still meant two very different results.
At 64-62 entering Friday, the Nationals are 6.5 games back of the New York Mets for first place in the NL East. Meanwhile the Dodgers are 70-56, and still hold a 2.5-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West despite a recent five-game losing skid.
As for Harper, he’s having the best season of his young career, both in terms of health and production. He leads the Majors in batting average (.334), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.639), wOBA (.457), wRC+ (195) and home runs (31).
With Kershaw last season becoming the first NL pitcher be named MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968, recent history may work against Greinke if voters are against giving the position player-dominated award to a pitcher for a second consecutive season.