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Harper makes impassioned plea after latest Nats loss

Says team isn't out of race, needs leadership, camaraderie down stretch

DETROIT -- After watching his team lose to the Tigers, 11-1, on Wednesday afternoon to drop its record to 52-56, 10 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East pending Atlanta's game Wednesday night, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper spoke as if he needed to get something off his chest.

With two months left in the season, he said it's time for the Nationals to step up if they want to win their second straight division title.

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"That's the biggest thing right now. You have to have heart. You have to play as a family. Everybody has to want it, starting with the manager on down to everybody," Harper said. "Everybody wants to win this and keep going and what not. We need to keep doing that. We need to keep going, play better, get better, better [at-bats] in certain situations and pitch better also. It's just something we need to do.

"We play the Braves nine games. This [race] isn't over. I really don't think it's over. So we have to keep going, keep grinding and try to be the family that we were last year. I'm not the one to speak on it. I try to be a leader, but I'm younger. I think there are things we can do better, and I think everybody knows it. We are a better team than we are showing now. We can't worry about the Braves. We have to worry about staying out of fourth or fifth place. … One game at a time. We have to play these last two months as if we will never play this game again."

Harper said it starts by having good camaraderie in the clubhouse every day, and an upbeat manager no matter what happens on the field.

"We have two more months of baseball. If we play what we are capable of playing, we will win this and we will do this, and I know it for a fact because we have a great team, we have a great organization, we have guys on this team that are unbelievable. We have to keep going, keep grinding and do the things that we need to do."

Before Harper spoke his mind to the media, he suffered a hip spasm while hitting in the seventh inning against the Tigers. He remained in the game until he was replaced by Roger Bernadina in the bottom of the eighth.

"I feel fine," Harper said.

Harper is hoping it's not a long-term injury. He already has missed more than a month because of a left knee injury suffered in May when he crashed into the wall at Dodger Stadium.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper