Harper returns to Washington as Phillies open two-game set with Nationals

Phillies travel to Washington to face Nationals in Harper's return
There's no denying that the focal point of tonight's series opener between the Phillies and Nationals is Bryce Harper and his return to D.C. The superstar spent the past seven seasons in the nation's capital before inking a 13-year deal with the Phillies in March for $330 million.

Rumor has it, more than a dozen buses carrying at least 500 Phillies fans are currently en route to Nationals Park with at least 100 of those fans holding tickets to sit in right field behind Harper.

Yep, things are going to get interesting tonight.

The Nationals will have Max Scherzer on the bump for the series opener. He threw 7 2/3 innings and 109 pitches in a 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday. The Phillies counter with Zach Eflin who will be making his first start of the season.

The Phillies enter play on Tuesday as baseball's only undefeated team following a series sweep of Atlanta to open the season. The offense relied on the long-ball with eight homers with Harper accounting for a pair. The team OPS+ of 141 is tied for the fifth best mark in baseball with the Cubs.

The Nationals dropped their first two games to open the season against the New York Mets before winning in walk-off fashion on Sunday with Trea Johnson hitting a solo-shot down the left field line.

Harper reception
Harper won't necessarily be welcomed back to Nationals Park with open arms, but it'll be interesting to see the type of response he receives tonight. No, the Nats didn't win anything while he was there, but he was a six-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger, and MVP - that's quite a resume.

Harper did post a 'Thank You' for Nats fans on his Instagram page early on Tuesday, so perhaps that may soften the blow a little. The Nationals have not mentioned if they have plans to reciprocate with a video tribute or something similar.

Eflin debut
Zach Eflin will make his season debut tonight for the Phillies. He's had a tough go of things against the Nationals, pitching to a 5.93 over three career starts. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his last start in D.C. back in August, surrendering five runs on 10 hits.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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