Right fielder Bryce Harper departed the Nationals’ game against the Giants on Saturday with an apparent injury to his left knee. The injury occurred when Harper tried to beat out a ground ball, per the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, who adds that the superstar had to be helped off the field and didn’t put any weight on his leg when he exited (Twitter links). As the video shows (via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, on Twitter), Harper slipped while crossing the first base bag, which was “clearly wet” as a result of rainy conditions in Washington, tweets Castillo.
The Nationals already lost one of their starting outfielders for the year when center fielder Adam Eaton suffered a torn ACL in April, while left fielder Jayson Werth has been out since early June with foot issues. The club has also had to go without Eaton’s replacement, Michael Taylor, for over a month because of an oblique injury, while standout shortstop Trea Turner has been on the shelf since the end of June with a fractured wrist. The Nationals, to their credit, have withstood those absences en route to a 68-45 record and an insurmountable 14-game lead in the NL East.
While injuries haven’t stopped the Nationals to this point, remaining an elite team without Harper would be an incredibly difficult task. Harper is arguably the best player in the National League, after all, and will have a strong chance to win his second MVP this season if his injury isn’t as catastrophic as it appears. In his age-24 campaign, Harper has slashed a remarkable .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs in 472 plate appearances. His 5.0 fWAR ranks third in the NL, trailing only Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (5.2) and one of Harper’s teammates, third baseman Anthony Rendon (5.1).
Washington replaced Harper on Saturday with Brian Goodwin, who shifted from center to right, and brought Andrew Stevenson off the bench to occupy center. Longtime first baseman Adam Lind and the recently acquired Howie Kendrick join Goodwin and the untested Stevenson as the team’s only healthy outfield options at the moment.