SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports baseball insider Bob Nightengale discusses the injury to Washington’s superstar
USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON – Mike Trout has been more or less joined at the hip with Bryce Harper since both players claimed their respective leagues’ Rookie of the Year award in 2012. And he wryly notes that their head-to-head matchups – such as they are, in baseball – certainly fuel more media hype than motivation for the participants.
But Tuesday at Nationals Park, with Harper sidelined after suffering a severe bone bruise in his left knee on a gruesome spill at first base, Trout acknowledged the absence of the Washington Nationals star was palpable.
“It’s always fun playing against him,” Trout said. “It sucks he’s not on the field.”
NL MVP race: How Bryce Harper’s injury shakes things up
Trout knows the feeling; he landed on the disabled list for the first time after tearing a ligament in his thumb sliding into second base. The Los Angeles Angels center fielder spent five weeks on the DL, and the headfirst slide at Marlins Park that shelved him looked plenty painful.
Harper’s spill, however, appeared calamitous.
“You see a guy do that, it’s scary and you think of the worst,” said Trout, who said he spoke with Harper since the injury occurred Saturday night. “It looked way worse than it is.
“To see him come out of it with a bone bruise, and not ligaments, it’s good for baseball.”
It could be argued that were it not for their ill-fated engagements with first and second base, Harper and Trout would be locking down their respective MVP awards. Harper’s 29 home runs and 1.034 OPS will be frozen until perhaps the final days of the regular season.
Despite missing five weeks, Trout still ranks fourth in the AL in Wins Above Replacement (5.1), and boasts an 1.158 OPS.
He also has a potential playoff stretch drive to buttress his case. Since Trout’s return, the Angels have won 10 of 13 games currently hold the second wild card slot in the AL, with seven teams lurking from one-half to 3 ½ games behind them.
After Harper suffered his injury, he expressed hope he might still win the award, and the Nationals’ 13 ½-game lead in the NL East checks off the playoff box.
Trout, at 26 already a two-time AL MVP and two-time runner-up, doesn’t have that luxury – just yet.
“At the end of the year, if you win (MVP), it’s always a great feeling,” he said. “But there’s one goal here and that’s to get to the playoffs.
“You can pretty much lock the playoffs for (the Nationals). But for us, individual stuff can come after the season. We want to get to the playoffs.”
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