Harper went 3-for-6 with a double in Friday's 6-5 extra-inning loss to the Pirates. The slugger's multi-hit effort was his first since Sep. 6, a testament to how lackluster his month has been at the plate overall. Harper has slashed .203/.333/.297 over 64 September at-bats, with only one homer and seven RBI, following an August where he managed a stellar .310/.398/.536 line and drove in 19 runs.
Harper has been dealing with an ailing shoulder/neck for the past two months, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci reports. Since the start of July (approximately when the injury occurred, according to Verducci's report), Harper has hit .227/.344/.391 with eight home runs in 270 plate appearances, so his lack of production over that span certainly seems to back up the report that Harper is playing hurt. Manager Dusty Baker took issue with Verducci's report Tuesday, but that should not come as a surprise, as Baker has been tight-lipped about Harper's status all season, and he was likely upset that Verducci found a source close to Harper who was willing to talk. Assuming this report is accurate, it goes a long way toward explaining Harper's struggles this year, which is good news for his owners in keeper leagues, but bad news for anyone expecting him to turn things around over the final two weeks of the season.
Harper is not in the lineup Monday against the Marlins, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. With the Nats comfortably atop the NL East, they'll rest the reigning NL MVP in preparation for the postseason. Harper hit an encouraging .310 in the month of August, but his struggles have returned in September, as he's hitting just .184 with one home run, seven RBI and 16 strikeouts across 49 at-bats.
Harper went 1-for-4 with a three-run shot, his 24th home run of the year, in Saturday's 3-0 win over the Phillies. The eighth-inning blast came too late to get Max Scherzer a win, but it put the Nats nine games clear of the Mets in the NL East title race. After rebounding in August, Harper's off to a tough start to September, slashing .258/.314/.419 with an uncharacteristic 3:9 BB:K ratio in 31 at-bats.
Harper is not in the lineup for Monday's game against the Royals, according to MASN's Dan Kolko. Harper has been swinging a hot bat for a few weeks, but manager Dusty Baker decided to hold out several of his regulars Monday, so Harper will get a day off for the first time since he sat out three straight games in mid-August with a sore neck. Brian Goodwin will get the start in right field in Harper's place.