Bryce Harper ready to return to Nats just in time for the postseason

Rejoice, Washington Nationals fans, your superstar is back. Outfielder Bryce Harper will return to the starting lineup Tuesday. He missed the last 41 games due to a knee injury.

Harper is slated to hit second against the Philadelphia Phillies. He’ll face righty Jake Thompson in his first game action since Aug. 12.

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Harper has been out after injuring his knee while slipping on first base trying to beat out a hit. He was diagnosed with a “significant” bone bruise, and has been working his way back the past few weeks.

While Harper always maintained he would return for the postseason, that was never assured. At one point, manager Dusty Baker seemed concerned, saying Harper was weeks away from running.

The 24-year-old Harper has made a lot of progress since then, and was initially slated to play Monday. Harper came down with the flu, though, putting off his return for another 24 hours.

Harper is not expected to play the entire game Tuesday, which is possible why Baker has him batting second in the order. He can get more at-bats sooner in each game.

While he represents a huge upgrade to the club, the Nationals actually fared pretty well without the former MVP.

For Washington, the regular season doesn’t really matter. They locked up the National League East 16 days ago, so that record doesn’t mean much. It won’t be about wins or losses in the next few games, either. The only thing that will matter is getting Harper enough work while also making sure he doesn’t re-injure himself.

The Nationals have flown a bit under the radar all season. They’ve been overshadowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hot start … then near collapse. Even as the Dodgers have evened things out, people have ignored Washington.

Bryce Harper is ready to return to the Nationals. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Bryce Harper is ready to return to the Nationals. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

While Washington has carried talented clubs into the postseason in recent years, it hasn’t led to success. The franchise hasn’t advanced past the Division Series since it returned to D.C.

With Harper back, that drought could end this year. The Nationals have one of the deepest rosters in the game, and will be at close to full strength if Harper can make progress over the next couple games.

It’s all setting up for the Nationals to finally make a deep run in October.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik