Harper heating up, but gets day off from Nats' lineup
DENVER -- Just as he was beginning to heat up, Bryce Harper took a seat.
The Nationals outfielder was held out of manager Matt Williams' lineup for a day of rest on Monday, when first-place Washington began a three-game series with the Rockies.
Harper made a small adjustment to his stance coming out of the All-Star break, and the result was a 5-for-10 performance with a home run and a double in the first series against the Brewers. Harper saw his batting average jump 19 points -- up to .263 -- during that three-game stretch.
With the Nationals set to face three left-handed starters in the series against Colorado, Williams said he wanted to find extra at-bats for switch-hitting Danny Espinosa, who started at second base Monday. Anthony Rendon moved to third base, with Ryan Zimmerman taking over Harper's spot in left.
"He's going to get days [off] on occasion," Williams said. "[Harper] hasn't been seeing the lefties as well as he wants to, so it's a question of getting Danny some at-bats right-handed, certainly, and allowing Zimmerman to get some time in left."
Harper has generally hit left-handers well this season, going 14-for-39 (.359), but Williams indicated that Harper has been struggling to locate balls down in the zone from southpaws in recent days.
Overall, Harper is hitting .220 (11-for-50) since return from the disabled list on June 30, and Williams said he will continue to find rest days for the 21-year-old as he continues to recover fully from a torn thumb ligament.
"He's coming off a very serious injury," Williams said. "So, one, we wanted to get Danny some time. Two, we certainly want to give Bryce a day when he needs it."