Harper forging to lead early in Nationals offense

After nine games, left fielder Bryce Harper is the Nationals' most consistent hitter.

He has become so well-known for his hitting that the White Sox decided to intentionally walk the 20-year-old to get to Ryan Zimmerman.

But it isn't just about matchups and whether or not Harper has the hot bat. He also has been more selective at the plate to begin this season.

Harper began his rookie season red-hot and then cooled off.

This season, through nine games, Harper is leading the team in batting average (.417), home runs (4), RBIs (8) and total bases (28).

And if he is being more selective, he is even doing it on the pitcher's first offering. Through eight games this season, Harper is an astounding 7-for-8 (.875) with two homers and two RBIs swinging at first pitch. He has reached full count in three games, going 2-for-4 with one homer and one RBI.

In his career on the first pitch, Harper is 37-96 (.385) in 99 plate appearances over 81 games. He
has hit eight homers with 14 RBIs swinging at first pitch.

Harper is 19-for-69 (.275) in his career when facing a full count, with two homers and 10 RBIs.

"He is definitely learning," Zimmerman said. "He is going to have to learn that sometimes they are going to pitch around him and not necessarily to give him a pitch to hit. That is sometimes the hardest thing to tell. You don't know when they are going to do that.

"It is kind of scary to think about what he can be like in a few years after he gets some experience and starts to learn what they want to do and when they want to do it. It is pretty fun to watch."

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