Amid a crazy week on the D.C. sports scene, the Washington Nationals seemingly flew under the radar, despite undertaking a four-game home-and-home set against their beltway neighbors from Baltimore.  

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Enny Romero (72) and catcher Matt Wieters (32) look on from the mound during an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, May 9, 2017, in Baltimore. The Orioles won 5-4 in 12 innings. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Unfortunately for Washington fans, the Orioles continued their mastery of the Nationals by winning the first two games of the series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Washington owns the best record in the National League, but lost 6-4 on May 8, and blew a late lead on May 9 before falling 5-4 in 12 innings.

Those two victories briefly gave the Orioles the best record in the majors, a distinction that vanished with a 7-6 loss on May 10 in Washington, D.C. The host Nationals rallied with a three-run ninth inning, highlighted by former Orioles catcher Matt Weiters hitting a two-run walk-off single.

The final game was postponed by rain and will be played on June 8 in D.C. The first game of a three-game set against Philadelphia was postponed as well, affording the Nats an unexpected two-day break in the middle of the season.  

Nationals fans received some good news before the start of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 13, as Bryce Harper agreed to a $21.625 million contract for 2018, a deal that could include an additional $1 million in potential bonuses and will cover his final year of arbitration before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.  A huge bidding war is looming after the 2018 season for Harper’s services, and he proved exactly why that’s the case when he crushed his second walk-off homer of the season, a two-out shot to straightaway center field at Nationals Park which upended the Phillies, 6-4. 

The estimated 434-foot homer was Harper’s 11th of the season and 19th of his career against the Phillies. It came after the Nationals’ bullpen, bolstered by the returns of Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley, tossed more than four scoreless innings. Neither Glover nor Kelley allowed a hit as the Nationals improved to 23-12 this season.

Harper will command in excess of more than $300 million on the open market, and possibly as much $400 million. But every day he continues to play at a level where fans can really step back and say, “he may actually be worth it.”

Harper’s success is key for the Nationals, and the goodwill shown by the franchise in locking in a deal for next season should help negotiations going forward.

Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO