Harper’s big offense outweighs outfield misplay

Look out to left and center field in the top of the first inning and the two players on defense for the Nationals had a combined 32 major league games at their defensive positions.

Even looking at their minor league careers, Bryce Harper (129) and Tyler Moore (3) combined for just 132 total games in the outfield.

Then, in the top of the second, Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit lofted a fly ball between Moore and Harper that looked catchable, but the ball never hit Harper’s glove and dropped in for an error and Baltimore had a potential rally going. The Orioles ended up scoring two in the inning.

So, should there be any concern about their defense playing a role in deciding games?

Not really. It was just one defensive miscue. Yes, there have been others, and there will be more. But the outfield is also a lot about communication on fly balls. That is really the lesson learned here.

“I was just trying to go after that ball,” Harper said. “I had a good route on it and a good read on it and I just dropped it. Nothing I can do.”

Manager Davey Johnson said Harper will learn from the encounter and knows he made a mistake.

Did Johnson think he was taking a chance putting Moore and Harper in the outfield with their lack of game experience at that defensive spot?

“Not really. Bryce got a little overaggressive,” Johnson said. “Tyler was under it and the wind was blowing it away from Harp. I don’t know if he took his eye off of it to avoid Tyler. I heard him yell all the way into the dugout. You guys probably heard him upstairs (in the fourth-floor press box).”

Harper said he thought he had a good shot for the catch.

“I was just going after it,” Harper said. “I was just trying to get there and make a play. I probably should have let Tyler take it. But I thought I had a good beat on it. The wind took it a little bit. It got me. I should have caught it. I take full responsibility for that. It is just something that happens.”

So, it certainly is not an alarming scenario for the defense of these two players in the outfield to give up a run. After all, Roger Bernadina dropped a similar fly ball in the last Stephen Strasburg start that helped the Padres score three runs in the first.

This stuff happens, but what you do next on defense is what matters. With the way Harper plays defense, you would expect him to make the adjustment for the next time out. The Nationals are willing to sacrifice the possibility of a misplay here or there because the upside of Harper at the plate.

Three runs, two hits including his second big-league triple and two RBIs by Harper prove that point just fine.

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