Nationals RF Bryce Harper and RHP Max Scherzer take home monthly NL awards
by Amanda Comak
On the heels of a record-setting May that thrust him into the Major League lead in multiple offensive statistical categories, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was named the National League Player of the Month on Wednesday, and right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer was named the National League Pitcher of the Month after six dominant May starts.
This is the first time in Nationals history (2005-present) that the team has claimed both awards in the same month. Harper and Scherzer are also the first pair of NL teammates to win Player and Pitcher of the Month in the same month since Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and CC Sabathia (July, 2008).
Harper and Scherzer are the sixth and seventh Nationals players to earn the monthly honors, joining Chad Cordero (June, 2005), Stephen Strasburg (April, 2012), Gio Gonzalez (May, 2012), Jordan Zimmermann (July, 2012) and Jayson Werth (July 2013, July 2014).
Currently leading the Major Leagues in home runs (T1st, 18), walks (45), slugging percentage (.718), OPS (1.188) and at-bats per home run (9.44), Harper also ranks tied for second in MLB in RBI (44), second in on-base percentage (.470), and second in runs (1st in the NL) with 43.
With 13 home runs in 26 May games – including a streak of six in a three-game span – Harper set a Nationals record (2005-present) for the most home runs hit in a single month. The baker’s dozen topped the previous Nationals mark of 12, set by Alfonso Soriano in May, 2006. Harper also became the 10th youngest player in Major League history to hit three home runs in one game, which he accomplished on May 6 vs. the New York Mets.
Harper, who won back-to-back National League Player of the Week awards last month, on May 11 and May 18, hit .360 (31-for-86) with a .495 on-base percentage and .884 slugging percentage during the month. He clubbed four doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 28 RBI, 22 walks, two stolen bases and 24 runs scored. The 22-year-old — who led the Nationals with five game-winning RBI and six go-ahead RBI last month — drove in multiple runs in seven games, including two five-RBI performances (May 6 vs. NYM and May 8 vs. ATL) and one four-RBI day (May 17 at SDP).
Harper reached base safely in all but three of the games he played in last month (23 of 26) and reached base safely at least twice in 12 consecutive games from May 6-19, the longest such stretch in the Major Leagues this season. It was also the longest stretch of Harper’s career, and in Nationals history (2005-present).
Scherzer went 5-1 with a 1.67 ERA during the month of May – the best record and lowest ERA among National League starters who threw at least 40.0 innings last month.
Throwing at least seven innings in each of his six May starts, Scherzer tied a Nationals record (2005-present) with eight consecutive starts (dating to April 17) of at least seven innings of work. He matched Livan Hernandez’s stretch of eight straight from June 20-July 31, 2005. Scherzer and Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels were the only National League pitchers to throw 43.0 innings or more in May.
After a loss to open the month (4-0 at NYM), Scherzer picked up the win in five consecutive starts and held his opponent to one run or fewer in four of those five outings. He closed the month with a flourish, topping the Chicago Cubs on May 27 at Wrigley Field, 3-0, with seven shutout innings and 13 strikeouts.
Scherzer, who struck out 10 or more batters in four of his six starts last month, posted 56 strikeouts and just six walks in May, a 9.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and struck out 11.72 batters per nine innings of work. He held opponents to a .208 batting average and a miniscule 0.91 WHIP.
On the season, Scherzer ranks among Major League leaders in the following categories: ERA (3rd/1st in NL, 1.85), strikeouts (T3rd, 90), innings pitched (2nd/1st in NL, 77.2), opponents’ batting average (8th, .202), strikeouts per nine innings (8th, 10.43) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4th, 7.50).
The Nationals’ right-hander joins right fielder Bryce Harper in a clean sweep of the National League Player and Pitcher of the Month awards for Washington. This is the first time in Nationals history (2005-present) that the team has claimed both awards in the same month. Harper and Scherzer are also the first pair of NL teammates to win Player and Pitcher of the Month in the same month since Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and CC Sabathia (July, 2008).
Scherzer and Harper are the sixth and seventh Nationals players to earn the monthly honors, joining Chad Cordero (June, 2005), Stephen Strasburg (April, 2012), Gio Gonzalez (May, 2012), Jordan Zimmermann (July, 2012) and Jayson Werth (July 2013, July 2014).