Bill Ladson

Harper, Strasburg named NL Players of Week

Slugger hits .519 with five homers; right-hander fans 24 over two starts

Harper, Strasburg named NL Players of Week

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and right-hander Stephen Strasburg shared National League Player of the Week honors for games played from Sept. 14-20.

Harper, who is the frontrunner for the NL Most Valuable Player Award, had a week to remember, batting .519 with five home runs, 10 RBIs and a slugging percentage of 1.111. Four of those blasts came against the Phillies.

Harper's best game came on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Not only did he go deep twice and drive in all of Washington's runs in a 4-0 win, but he put himself in the Nats' record book, eclipsing Adam Dunn for most home runs in a season by a left-handed hitter in franchise history. Dunn hit 38 homers in 2009 and '10.

Harper belts 40 in age-22 season

Harper's first home run came in the first inning off right-hander David Buchanan, a monster shot that landed about 15 feet above the 409-foot mark in center field. The record-setting home run came in the eighth inning off left-hander Adam Loewen.

Before Harper came to the plate against Loewen, he had a talk with manager Matt Williams on how to approach the at-bat. Harper swung at a fastball and hit an opposite-field home run to left. After entering the dugout, Harper grabbed Williams and gave him a hug.

Harper has won Player of the Week honors two other times. He won the award twice in May.

Asked if Harper should be the MVP, Williams recently said, "At this point, we have a bunch of games left. I don't think he is thinking about it. I would certainly not want him to start thinking about it. I would tell him to, 'Stay with your approach, keep doing what you are doing. At the end of the day, you might have a shot.'"

Strasburg strikes out 14 in win

As for Strasburg, he showed last week that he has overcome the back tightness that plagued him in late August and the start of September. He went 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 15 innings.

Strasburg had arguably his best start of the season in Tuesday's victory over the Phillies. He pitched eight scoreless innings, didn't allow a baserunner to reach scoring position and tied a career high with 14 strikeouts. The outing brought back memories of Strasburg's Major League debut in 2010, when he struck out 14 Pirates.

On Sunday, Strasburg won his 10th game of the season by logging seven strong innings and allowing two runs (one earned) against the Marlins. Strasburg also struck out 10. It marked the first time in his career that he had fanned at least 10 batters in three consecutive games.

"With Stras, he's healthy. I think the results are because of that," Williams said. "Certainly, he has pitched great for us."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.