Series Preview

This could be the last home series of Bryce Harper's tenure with the Nationals. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

By Chelsea Janes > Chelsea Janes Reporter covering the Washington Nationals >Email >Bio Follow >

When this season began, a final homestand that included the Mets and Marlins seemed likely to serve as a victory lap. Both of those teams were projected to struggle and the Nationals were projected to cruise. Most thought baseball would be played here in October. Instead, after this week Nationals Park will not be used for baseball until late March.

But as long as the weather permits baseball to happen, this series includes plenty of things to think about as the home schedule comes to an end.

HARPER’S FINAL HOME GAME?

For this series, as for so many others over the last eight years, much of the focus will center on Bryce Harper. The former MVP will be a free agent after this season, his much-discussed future very much uncertain, his price likely high enough that the Nationals will have to weigh their options.

When asked about this homestand a week ago, Harper said it hadn’t hit him that this could be the end. But as the Nationals limp to the finish, as rain threatens almost every game, the end seems to be coming sooner than anyone realized.

Harper has recovered from an uncharacteristic first half to compile the kind of season to which he is accustomed. Other than his batting average, which has stayed low with a career-high number of walks limiting his chances to improve it, Harper is on pace for a career-norm season. He is hitting .245 with 34 homers and 99 RBI.

SCHERZER’S QUEST FOR 300

Though current consensus holds that Jacob deGrom has Max Scherzer beat for the National League Cy Young Award, Scherzer can still make a powerful case — and has milestones left to hit. After he struck out 13 batters in his last outings, the 34-year-old sits at 290 strikeouts with two starts to go. Should he strike out 10 or more against the Marlins Tuesday, Scherzer will become the sixth pitcher since 2000 to strike out 300 batters in a season. His previous career high was 284. He leads the majors.

Scherzer leads the National League in batting average against, WHIP, innings pitched, and strikeouts per nine. He is scheduled to make one more start after Tuesday, in the season finale at Coors Field. But Tuesday could be the day he makes history, weather permitting.

REAL SHOT AT REALMUTO?

The Nationals' official elimination gave the team permission to look ahead, which means everyone is free to consider their plans to fill some needs this offseason. One of those needs is a reliable and productive starting catcher. Matt Wieters will be a free agent. Neither Pedro Severino nor Spencer Kieboom has proven himself capable of carrying a big league offensive load. But the best catcher in baseball is on the market, available via trade, and plays for the Marlins.

The Nationals have pursued J.T. Realmuto doggedly in the past, but found the Marlins' asking price too high — almost offensively so. But after upping their offer at the trade deadline and finding it wasn’t enough, the Nationals will almost certainly revisit that option this offseason, particularly because other teams will likely be calling, too. Could this series at Nationals Park be Realmuto’s last as a visiting player? Certainly, a lot must happen to get him to Washington. But he is on the radar, as so many players will be this winter when the Nationals try to retool and prevent playing meaningless games next September.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Mon.: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Sandy Alcantara

Tues.: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Jeff Brigham

Weds.: RHP Tanner Roark vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen

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Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2018/09/24/nationals-marlins-series-preview-home-schedule-comes-an-end/?noredirect=on

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