Bryce Harper explains humble motivation for 2018

By Alex Butler  |  Updated May 25, 2018 at 11:58 PM
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May 25 (UPI) -- Bryce Harper has never led Major League Baseball in home runs and that isn't his goal. The Washington Nationals star isn't looking for any individual accolade.

Despite leading the National League in long balls, Harper isn't checking highlights at the end of the night to see if he is falling behind in the season-long home run race. In fact, he prefers watching his hometown Vegas Golden Knights cruise through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"I'm just watching a lot of hockey," Harper said. "In the clubhouse here, we are doing things that mean a lot to us. I'm not really worried about anybody else or what anybody else is doing."

Harper explained what he is looking to do in 2018 after the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 9-5 on Friday at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. The five-time All-Star and 2015 National League MVP went 2-for-5, with two RBIs and two strikeouts in Friday's National League East triumph.

The Nationals own a 27-22 record on the season, but trail the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the division. Washington has three division crowns in the last four seasons, but has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

That means if the Nationals want to get over the postseason hump -- like the Washington Capitals have in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- they must look in the mirror.

"[We are] just trying to be the best team we can and do that," Harper said. "I'm looking forward to playing every single day and having some fun with this team. As a group we are very lucky to have the staff that we do, the bullpen that we do and the guys that we do."

Max Scherzer is one of the guys the Nationals are lucky to have. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struggled -- by his standards -- on the hill Friday, allowing seven hits and four runs in six innings, but still earned his eighth victory of the season.

The Nationals jumped ahead 2-0 on Michael A. Taylor's second inning home run. The Marlins tied the game in the bottom of the fourth frame. Matt Adams smashed another home run in the top of the sixth, giving Washington a 4-2 edge. Derek Dietrich crushed a Scherzer curve ball into the upper deck for a two-run shot to right field in the sixth frame. Trea Turner had an RBI single, before Harper plated two more runs with an RBI double in the seventh inning for Washington.

Miami couldn't keep up down the stretch, plating only one more run, as the Nats plated another duo of runs in the eighth frame.

The Nationals and Marlins take the field for the second bout in the three-game National League East series at 4:10 p.m. Saturday in Miami.

Harper now has three multi-hit games in his last four starts. He is hitting .213, with seven home runs and 15 RBI in May, after swatting .241 with eight dingers in April.

"He's one of the best players in baseball," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I love the kid. He works hard and all he wants to do is help this team win. He goes out there everyday and prepares himself and that's what he does."

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