Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper continues to impress me.
In the first inning of tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper got plunked in the back by Phillies starter Cole Hamels. There was two out and nobody on and Hamels has impeccable control. This was intentional. It was also bush league.
But Harper got even. Harper went from first to third on a single in shallow left field by Jayson Werth. Then came the coup de grace. After Hamels threw over to first base, Harper stole home. It was the first stolen base of Harper’s career. Most players never steal home in their career.
Later in the game, Harper dunked what appeared to be a single in shallow left field. But Harper was running on all eight cylinders and stretched it into a double.
Unfortunately for the Nats, they lost 9-3. It was close until the ninth when they were down 3-1 but the Phils scored six runs in the top of the frame. Hunter Pence hit Harper very nearly made a spectacular play on a flyball hit by Placido Polanco but he overran the ball and dropped it much to his displeasure. Well, Harper is a quick learner. He won’t make that mistake again.
One other piece of bad news for the Nats. In the sixth inning, Werth broke his left wrist sliding for a ball hit by Polanco (him again). No word as to how long he’ll be out. But Harper isn’t going back down to Syracuse. In fact, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing of a lot of Harper in right field which given the strength of his throwing arm might be where he’s best suited.
But in thinking about Werth’s injury, the only thing that worries me about Harper is that his aggressive style of play could get him hurt and curtail him from attaining his potential. I realize it’s a risk that comes with the territory but this kid is really, really good and would hate to see anything get in his way.
UPDATE: Hamels admitted he hit Harper intentionally. As a result, he has been fined and suspended for five games (which means he misses a start). Hamels may have intended to teach Harper a lesson but not only did Harper school Hamels by stealing home but Hamels has been sent to detention to learn his lesson.