- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2017

The last thing Bryce Harper wanted to hear about was the Washington Nationals’ upcoming nine-game road trip following the All-Star break. Harper and the Nationals had just completed a stretch of 46 games in 48 days.

“I’m not even going to comment or think about that. I don’t really want to, to tell you the truth,” Harper said Sunday. “I’m pretty sick of baseball right now, so we’ll take these four days and try to relax and do things I can to hang out with my family and just try to enjoy it. And then get back into baseball mentality.”

It’s time for Harper to get back into his “baseball mentality” as the Nationals begin the second half of the season Friday with a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. The series is part of a nine-game stretch that will keep the Nationals on the road until July 25.

The Reds at a glance

The Nationals are 2-1 against the Reds this season, last having played them near the end of June. During one of those games, the Nationals had a season-high 18 runs and were in full sync offensively.

Washington will have to get back to that point, but showed the offensive firepower again heading into the All-Star break, beating the Atlanta Braves 10-5.

The Nationals lead the National League East by 9½ games.

“We don’t want to just continue our lead, we want to pad the lead,” Baker said.
“You want to, like I said, there’s a few areas we really have to improve on. We have to improve on our first-pitch efficiency, our bullpen efficiency. We have to improve on getting runners in from third with less than two outs, and we really have to improve on our day-game percentage of winning. That’s the one area where we’re not very good. I’d like to improve our one-run games. So there’s a few areas of improvement.”

The rebuilding Reds, meanwhile, figured to be one of the worst teams in baseball before the season, but had a surprising start with an 24-27 record heading into June.

But the Reds have crashed since then and are currently 39-49, bolstered by a 10-17 record in June. Cincinnati is also a much better team at home, with a 23-20 record at Great American Ballpark (16-29 on the road).

The Reds, for what it’s worth, also might have had the most surprising moment in the first half of the season when little-known Scooter Gennett did this:

Starting rotation

Gio Gonzalez will get the start Friday against the Reds‘ Tim Aldeman at 7:10 p.m.

Max Scherzer will start Saturday, followed by Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark. After being selected as an All-Star, Strasburg did not pitch at the All-Star Game in Miami, but was available. He said he’s fine after being hit in the hip last Saturday by a come-backer.

Joe Ross will not a start in this series and his availability is unknown going forward. We should find out news soon regarding his status. Ross left Sunday’s game against the Braves with triceps tenderness in the fourth inning and his velocity was down about three miles per hour.

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