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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper sidesteps question about impending free agency

For the first time since the 2018 regular season began, Bryce Harper addressed the free agent elephant in every media room he enters.

Before the opener of a two-game home series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, the Washington Nationals' star was asked by reporters about his impending free agency after this season. Harper chose to dodge the future.

"I'm a National now," Harper said. "We're going into the series trying to win some ballgames. That's the only thing on my mind. Just trying to beat a good team over there."

Harper, a five-time All-Star and the 2015 National League MVP, turns 26 in October and is expected to be the headliner in a loaded free agent class this offseason. The usual big-market suspects have been rumored for months to be planning big runs at the slugger, including his opponent Tuesday, the Yankees.

Despite the high-profile matchup against New York, which owns baseball's best record (28-12) entering Tuesday, Harper instead focused his comments on his current team's on-field goals.

"Every single time we go in to face somebody, we've got to do things to keep track of what's important," said Harper, "and that's winning ballgames and doing the things we can as a team to play well. Doesn't matter who we're playing -- if it's the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, name it. Doesn't really matter the team or the atmosphere. Just trying to go in there, try to win ballgames."

The powerful Harper, tied for the National League lead with 13 home runs through Monday, has been hitting his typical bombs. But despite topping the majors with 41 walks, he had slumped recently (five hits in his past 34 at-bats) and his batting average had dropped to .236. Despite Harper's struggles, Washington was 24-18 and had won 13 of its past 15 games.