WASHINGTON -- Not even during the year he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2015 did Bryce Harper reach the 100-RBI mark, a number that has eluded him in his career. He finished with 99 RBIs that season. He recalled finishing one shy of 100 RBIs in
WASHINGTON -- Not even during the year he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2015 did Bryce Harper reach the 100-RBI mark, a number that has eluded him in his career. He finished with 99 RBIs that season. He recalled finishing one shy of 100 RBIs in college. He was on pace to do so in 2017 before he sustained a knee injury in August.
So reaching 100 RBIs for the first time has been a goal for Harper all season, the final year of his contract with the Nationals, and one he achieved by lifting a sacrifice fly into left field to allow Adam Eaton to score in the fourth inning of Washington's 7-3 victory over the Marlins on Monday night at Nationals Park. It made Harper the sixth player in the National League to record 100 RBIs this season.
"It just goes to show how good the guys in front of me are, getting on base all the time and really grinding to produce runs and things like that," Harper said. "Just a testament to how good this team is and how good our table-setters are at the top."
Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto immediately followed Harper by clubbing back-to-back homers during a four-run frame. The Nats' offensive outburst helped mask a poor outing from Stephen Strasburg, who only gave up one run, but needed 100 pitches to get through four innings as he never settled into a rhythm on a rainy night.
Rendon, meanwhile, improved his career-best on-base streak to 32 consecutive games with a two-run double in the first inning, his career-high 42nd of the year.
"For me, he's Mr. Steady," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "His all-around game. Defense. Offense. He's a guy that keeps our lineup together. Just imagine if he wasn't hurt for six weeks, the numbers he could've put up this year. Everybody forgets about that. But he was down for a while. To put up the numbers he put up this year was pretty incredible."
The victory improved the Nationals to 79-78 as they aim to finish this disappointing 2018 season strong. For much of the summer, disappointing was the same adjective attached to Harper's performance, as he was mired in perhaps the worst slump of his career.
However, Harper's numbers are starting to look like his usual form as he begins what could be the final home series of his Nationals career. Harper insisted after the game he has not taken the time to consider these could be his final home games at Nationals Park, but he appreciated the 22,428 fans who endured a rainy night to cheer him on as he reached his milestone.
Notching 100 RBIs is a team-driven stat, but Martinez considered where Harper began the season to point out how impressive his second half has been. Harper now has 34 home runs, 100 RBIs and an NL-leading 126 walks -- the last two career highs -- and 99 runs. The next time he crosses home plate, Harper will become just the sixth player since 2014 to record at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 100 walks in the same season.
"It's an unbelievable milestone," Martinez said prior to the game. "Those guys that do that consistently like that, it's incredible. It really is. Those guys, they don't miss opportunities to drive in runs when you get to 100 RBIs. Credit to him, he started off very slow. To be where he is now where we're even talking about it, it's a testament to what kind of player he really is."
Soto reached another milestone in his fantastic rookie season, passing Mickey Mantle for the fourth-most RBIs in a single season for a teenager with 66. Phil Cavarretta recorded the most with 82 RBIs in 1935. Soto is now sitting on 21 homers for the year, just one shy of tying Harper for the second most by a teenager in MLB history.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
According to Statcast™, Rendon's two-run homer in the fourth inning had a 48-degree launch angle -- the highest for the Nationals in 2018.
HE SAID IT
"It's amazing. His work finally paid off. It's a big accomplishment for him, especially seeing him this year, how he went through his struggles. But he didn't stay out of the cage. Kept on with his work, kept on staying diligent about it. His work paid off. I'm happy for him." -- Rendon, on Harper reaching 100 RBIs
"Year in and year out, he does his thing, and he's one of the best players in all of baseball. It's sad that he doesn't get the recognition that he should. He's one of the best third basemen in the game. It's not fair because he definitely is a big-time player, a superstar player... I don't think he cares to be that type of guy. He's going to come in and do his job, play a great third base, and keep his head down and keep going. Love him on our team, and what a caliber of player he is." -- Harper, on Rendon
Max Scherzer makes his penultimate start of the year with another chance to strengthen his case for the NL Cy Young Award when the Nationals host the Marlins on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. With 290 strikeouts this season, Scherzer is knocking on the door of 300, aiming to become just the fifth pitcher since 2000 to do so. Jeff Brigham will start for the Marlins, with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.