6 Pitchers We Cannot Wait to Watch Bryce Harper Face in the Playoffs
Bryce Harper is just days away from his first playoff appearance. The Washington Nationals have already clinched a playoff spot, and their magic number to win the NL East is down to four, after Wednesday's games. If they win the division, their postseason would begin by October 7.
In the playoffs, the timeless confrontation between pitcher and hitter becomes even more intense. Bryce Harper is sure to face some tough tests immediately, and the deeper he and the Nationals go into October the more hellacious the hurlers will become.
Here is a list of six pitchers we as baseball fans would love to see Bryce Harper face in the playoffs, in ascending order of the likelihood that Harper and the Nationals would face them in the postseason.
6. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
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The old man is back, just in time for the playoffs.
Chris Carpenter missed the bulk of this season with a rare neck and shoulder injury, but he made his season debut on Sept. 21. He'll make the playoff roster, and he'll be at the top of the list to pitch in the one-game Wild Card, despite having just joined the team. He's that good.
Chris Carpenter has yet to face Bryce Harper, but the 37-year-old would be perfect to give the youngster a crash course in playoff baseball.
5. Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves
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Kris Medlen has turned into one of the better stories of the 2012 MLB season.
The 26-year-old is in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and he has become the de facto ace of the Atlanta pitching staff during their playoff push. He began the season in the bullpen, thus limiting the number of innings he has pitched.
But Medlen was moved to the stating rotation on July 31 and he hasn't looked back. Kris is 8-0 as a starter, and in his last 10 starts, he is 7-0 with a 0.99 ERA. He is now 9-1 overall on the season with a 1.64 ERA. And comparisons to Greg Maddux are not overstated.
Already this season, Medlen is 1-0 against the Nationals in two starts, giving up a total of one earned run in 14 innings. He struck out 20 Nats while walking only two.
But despite dominating the National League and the Nationals, Medlen has not dominated Bryce Harper. In seven plate appearances, Bryce is 2-for-6 with one home run, one walk and one strikeout.
Perhaps Bryce Harper can be the Nationals player that turns the tide against Kris Medlen and the Atlanta Braves in the postseason.
4. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
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The San Francisco Giants entire pitching staff is absolutely loaded.
The 29-year-old from California took over as the Giants closer when All-Star Brian Wilson suffered a season-ending elbow injury in April, requiring Tommy John surgery. But Romo has carried the baton quite well, thank you.
Romo excels without a very good fastball. His average fastball velocity is a mere 87.7 mph, and he throws it 33.3 percent of the time.
But Sergio's strength is his slider. He throws it at an average velocity of 77.6 mph, which is a full 10 mph slower than his fastball. This differential gives him a significant advantage over hitters and as a result, he throws his slider 62.2 percent of the time.
On the year, Romo is 4-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 66 appearances. He has converted 12 of 13 save opportunities, and has struck out 59 and walked only 10 in 52.1 innings of work.
Bryce Harper did not see Sergio Romo during the season series, as the Nats won five out of the six games and outscored the Giants 45-24. But those scores will most likely come back down to Earth in the NLCS, which is where these two teams would meet. Then, Romo would see some action and Bryce Harper would see his electric stuff.
3. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
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Power vs. power.
Phenom vs. phenom.
NL Cy Young vs. NL Rookie of the Year?
Aroldis Chapman and Bryce Harper are in the running for those two prestigious awards, respectively. Chapman does not have a very good chance of winning the Cy Young, simply because he is a relief pitcher. But he has a better chance of winning the battle when he tangles with Bryce Harper.
Chapman has 36 saves in 41 opportunities, with an impressive 1.55 ERA. But most impressive is his 119 strikeouts in a mere 69.2 innings, to go along with only 21 walks.
It doesn't hurt that his average fastball velocity is 97.7 mph, best among NL relievers. And he throws the heater 87.6 percent of the time.
Harper had the extreme displeasure of facing Aroldis Chapman this season, with one plate appearance. The result?
A strikeout, of course.
2. Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
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Bryce Harper facing Derek Holland in the postseason would mean that the Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers would be playing in the World Series.
That matchup would be interesting enough as it is, but the duel between Harper and Holland would be an excellent side story.
Bryce Harper has already established himself as one of the fiercest and most intense competitors in the league, having injured both himself and several baseball bats while venting his frustration at various times.
It will be interesting to see if either of these players can use their personality to get the other off his game.
1. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
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What better way for Bryce Harper to cap off an amazing rookie year than to play the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the World Series?
And squaring off against Andy Pettitte would complete the experience. Pettitte has a ton of World Series experience throughout his 16-year career. In 13 World Series starts, Pettitte is 5-4 with a 4.06 ERA.
That includes two wins in two starts in his most recent trip to the World Series, claiming the title against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.
Hopefully for Bryce Harper's sake he can use the pressure of the big stage to rise to the occasion because facing Andy Pettitte head-to-head was a challenge this year.
In an interleague game on June 16, Bryce Harper went 0-for-4 against Andy Pettitte with three strikeouts. That was just the beginning of a nightmarish 14-inning game for Bryce in which he finished 0-for-7 with five strikeouts.
Perhaps another matchup against Andy Pettitte will prove to be a dream come true.