It was a statement play by Phillies All-Star starter Cole Hamels. With two outs in the first, he hit Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in the lower back with a pitch.
With two outs in the opening frame after walking the 19-year old the entire series, the Phillies were looking to put what they thought was a brash young player in his place.
Hamels told the Philadelphia media he hit Harper on purpose. Harper and manager Davey Johnson did not publicly say that they thought it was intentional.
But the play seemed to backfire on the Phillies early on. Following a Jayson Werth single that got Harper to third, Harper and third base coach Bo Porter discussed their strategy against Hamels to try to get the run in.
Porter had met with first base coach Trent Jewett before the game who said they had saw something in Hamels’ pickoff move to first. If the scenario played out in the game with an aggressive runner at third, they might go for it.
“It was something about (Hamels’) move,” Porter said. “When they are picking, it is something that if we get the right situation with the right base runners it is something we could take advantage of. Harper did a great job, read the keys and took advantage of it.”
Harper said Porter had talked to him about what they might do. Harper knew it wouldn’t be an easy play.
“We were just looking at his pick move,” Harper said. “We were trying to read some things. We saw something and got a run early. We took advantage of that. He threw a great game tonight. He threw very, very well. He is an All-Star.”
Porter said it takes a special player to be able to pull a play like that off. Not only do you need to have the ability, but you need to be smart enough to choose the right time to go.
“He is very mature for his age and he pays attention to detail,” Porter said. “There are certain things from the Phillies stand point that we talk about as coaches. We give the players that information. He is one of those guys that he takes every piece of information you give him and he finds out what can we do to win this baseball game and he is willing to do it.”
Harper said he stole home a couple of times in high school and college, but that was the first time he ever did it in pro ball.
After the game, with the stunning news that outfielder Jayson Werth would be out with broken wrist, Harper talked about what the veteran player had meant to him in the first week.
“Werth and I have gone in (to watch video) of pitchers,” Harper said. “I have had Werth teach me some things on the base paths and really take advantage of some things pitchers do is huge.”
Now, Harper will be asked to move to right field as the Nationals look yet again for a way to replace a starter for a couple of months.
But one thing is for sure, Harper has the attention of the Philadelphia Phillies and major league baseball.
Did I mention he has been in the majors for eight days?