Bryce Harper will get to enjoy at least one more grand celebration as a hometown fan favorite at Nationals Park when he trots out to right field at the beginning of the All-Star Game.
Harper is batting sixth in his fifth All-Star start, the lowest he has been in the National League lineup since the No. 9 spot in 2013. In a contract year that could be his last with Washington, Harper is hitting .214 with a .365 on-base percentage, .468 slugging percentage, 23 home runs and 54 RBIs.
His .214 batting average is 60 points lower than the next-closest NL All-Star hitter, while his 23 home runs are one shy of the overall league lead.
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"I look up there and see my average as well, and I look up there and go, 'Aw man, well that sucks,'" Harper said Monday, hours before taking part in the Home Run Derby. "But I look over a little bit to the right side of that and see 23 homers and (54) RBIs and 80 walks and runs scored and stuff like that. I don't know."
"Should I be hitting .300 or .280? Yeah, absolutely. But I guess I am where I'm at, and hopefully the only way I can go is up."
Harper reiterated it's no secret he's in the final year of his contract and brushed aside a question about trimming his beard last month when the New York Yankees came to town. But it's a shadow hanging over the first All-Star festivities in Washington since 1969.
"Everybody knew that at the beginning of the year this could be possibly my last year in D.C.," Harper said. "There's no elephant in the room. Everybody knows that that's a possibility. But I'm not really focused on that. I'm focused on what I can do to help the team win on a daily basis."
Still-Nationals teammate Max Scherzer will start the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, a no-brainer choice given his 12 victories, 2.41 ERA, NL-best 182 strikeouts and the game being in Washington. NL manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers complimented New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, who will get the ball second, but said the setting was the tiebreaker.
"It's his city. It's his ballpark," Dave Roberts said. "I've always tried to make things bigger than me and the club. And I think that Max, for the game of baseball, for our country, he's the right guy to take the baseball."
Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale opens for the American League as he and Scherzer join 13 other pitchers who have started three All-Star Games. Sale is starting for the third consecutive time and is the third player to do that, following Lefty Gomez and Robin Roberts.
Each pitcher made his first All-Star start with a different team — Sale for the White Sox and Scherzer for the Tigers — and has now gotten the nod in back-to-back years. It's the first time the same set of pitchers started the game two years in a row since 1939 and 1940; Paul Derringer and Red Ruffing.
When asked what each admired about the other, Scherzer said: "I think we said this last year."
Sale's Boston teammate Mookie Betts leads off for the AL, followed by the Astros' Jose Altuve, Angels' Mike Trout, Red Sox's J.D. Martinez, Indians' Jose Ramirez, Yankees' Aaron Judge, Orioles' Manny Machado, White Sox's Jose Abreu and Royals' Salvador Perez.
Cubs second baseman Javier Baez leads off for the NL, followed by the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt, Braves' Freddie Freeman, Dodgers' Matt Kemp, Harper, Braves' Nick Markakis, Giants' Brandon Crawford and Cubs' Willson Contreras.