Bryce Harper goes hitless in home debut

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Hagerstown Suns right fielder Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 with a walk in his home debut, a Lakewood BlueClaws 8-4 victory before a sold-out 6,017 at Municipal Stadium.

The 2010 No. 1 draft pick, Harper said he was concerned more about the loss than not getting a hit in four at-bats.

“Not really frustrated about anything, actually,” Harper said. “I am more frustrated that we lost. I am having good at-bats. I feel good up there. I feel strong up there. It is just going to take me a minute to get going. I am really excited to get going. I am going to swing it.”

On a windy night, the temperature dipped from the mid-60s at first pitch to the mid-40s by the end of the game. The weather, plus a quiet start by Harper and big innings by the visitors, helped to chase the large crowd home early.

Lakewood solved Hagerstown starter Chris McKenzie with three runs in the second inning and two more in the third.

Harper broke his bat with a groundout to short in his first at bat in the first frame. Then, in the fourth inning, Harper struck out swinging on a changeup from Lakewood starter David Buchanan.

But Harper doesn’t feel overwhelmed and nothing he is seeing now is surprising him.

“It is the same stuff I saw last year,” Harper said. “Everything I saw last year I am seeing this year. I am still seeing guys at 88 to 91 (mph) and good stuff. It just takes a minute to get going and play every day. I haven’t played every day since college.”

In the sixth, Harper grounded out to the first baseman, who threw on to the pitcher covering for the out. Finally, in the seventh inning, Harper drew a walk on BlueClaws reliever Tyler Knigge on seven pitches and a full count.

Harper was left at the on-deck circle in the bottom of the ninth when Adrian Sanchez grounded out to end the game.

Despite the 0-for-3 Friday and an 0-for-9 spell last week, Harper doesn’t think he is on a slide at the plate.

“I don’t think it is a slump,” Harper said. “I am hitting .230, .240, I don’t think that is a slump at all. I think I went 2-for-18 my first couple games in college. I am not stressed out about it at all. I feel good up there. I am seeing the pitches well.”

Hagerstown manager Brian Daubach agreed, saying there are 140 games in the season, and every player has to play usually six games each week.

“He needs to relax and realize he doesn’t have to get five hits in a game every night,” Daubach said. “I don’t think the plan for the Nationals is for him to be the savior this year. Like he said he just needs to go out and get better every day.”

“He will succeed at this level and he will move on eventually. He works hard. He is going to keep doing that. There are things outside of his hitting we need to work on too. But he will. He is a hard worker. You can really see those values in him.”

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