1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. The Nationals pounded rookie starter Matt Wisler and the Braves -- how bad are they right now? -- in a 15-1 victory and Harper produced one of the more interesting box score lines of the season: 0 4 0 1 4 0. That's four walks and four runs scored. But that doesn't tell the whole story:
Bryce Harper faced 20 pitches, didn't swing at any of them; 2nd-most pitches w/o a swing in a game in last 10 seasons (Juan Uribe, 21, 2010)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 4, 2015
Juan Uribe?!?!?! That's a weird one. Anyway, it's the second time Harper has had four walks and four runs this season, the first player to do that twice in a season since Dom DiMaggio in 1950. The sad thing is the Nationals pinch-hit for him in the sixth inning, ruining his chance at a 0 6 0 1 6 0 line.
This points to the bigger picture: Harper is the most feared hitter in baseball right now. He's not seeing strikes because pitchers don't want to pitch to him. His walk rate has increased from 18.4 percent in the first half to 21.1 percent in the second half. According to ESPN Stats & Informaion data, only Jay Bruce has seen a lower percentage of pitches in the strike zone this season. Keep in mind, however, how that can be misleading: Bruce is more of a free-swinger so pitchers don't have to throw him as many strikes.
Mark Zuckerman has a good story at Nats Insider about Harper's game. Ryan Zimmerman, who has benefited from all the walks to Harper with 23 RBIs over his past 11 games, had this to say: "Usually every team picks one person that they're not going to let beat them, and obviously Harp is the choice more times than not. I’m proud of him for being patient. That really shows the maturity that he's come around this year. It's hard to take those pitches, because everyone wants to get hits and everyone wants to drive in runs. Walks are good, but obviously it takes a lot of patience and discipline to do what he’s doing."
As for the Braves ...
The Braves are 12-38 over their last 50 games Team's worst 50-game stretch since it went 11-39 at the end of the 1935 season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 4, 2015
2. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies. CarGo hit two home runs for the second game in a row, boosting his National League-leading total to 35, as the Rockies beat the Giants 11-3. Gonzalez since June 1: .305/.351/.685, 31 home runs in 81 games. He's the first player to hit 25 home runs in a 50-game span since Ryan Howard in 2006. I wonder if any playoff contenders are wishing they would have inquired about him back on July 31. I wonder what other crazy stats we can come up with? Wait, here's one more:
Carlos González is eighth MLB player in history to hit multiple HRs in consecutive games more than once in same season (via @EliasSports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 4, 2015
3. Kansas City Royals hit machine. I feel guilty for not mentioning Yordano Ventura in Wednesday's Top 5 -- he has been the Yordano Ventura of 2014 over his past five starts in case you hadn't noticed -- so we have to get to the Royals on this night after they ripped out 20 hits in a 15-7 win against the Tigers. Kendrys Morales and Ben Zobrist led the way with four hits each and Morales had four RBIs. He's second in the AL in RBIs, just like we all predicted back in spring training!
Oh, don't miss Rany Jazayerli's story on Grantland:
5. Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee Brewers. The rookie allowed one run in six innings as the Brewers completed a three-game sweep of the Pirates. He has quietly posted a 2.42 ERA in 16 starts -- thanks in large part to just three home runs allowed in 96.2 innings. While his minor league numbers were never impressive (he had a career 4.10 ERA in the minors with mediocre strikeout rates), Jungmann was the 12th overall pick in 2011, so the Brewers have always believed in the arm and stuff, which includes a 93-mph fastball and a low 90s sinker.