“I respect what he did and it is part of the game,” Harper said after the Nats’ 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.
Harper led off the sixth inning with a comebacker to starting pitcher Lance Lynn, who threw to Matt Adams at first base for the first out of the inning. Harper peeled off toward the home dugout before reaching first base, which angered Williams.
Kevin Frandsen replaced Harper in left field to begin the seventh inning and Harper remained on the bench.
Harper’s spot came up in the order in the ninth with the Nationals down 4-2 and men on second and third with one out. Harper would have represented the winning run and said it was “tough to watch” from the bench.
Here is the rest of Harper’s postgame exchange with reporters.
Question: “What did Williams say to you in the dugout?”
Harper: “Nothing, he just told me that (Frandsen) was going to left. I said, ‘OK.’ “
Question: “Has this ever happened to you at any other level?”
Harper: “No, I mean it is part of the game. I respect what he did. It is part of it.”
Question: “What were you thinking when your spot comes up in the ninth with runners on?”
Harper: “Man. That is tough to watch. Being able to be up there in that situation is something that I thrive on and want to be in. It is in the past and nothing we can do about it now.”
Question: “Do you feel personally just bad about this situation today at all?”
Harper: “No. That is just how it is. It is in the past, nothing we can do about it now.”
Harper had recently been dealing with tightness in his left quad. When asked by a reporter whether he was OK health-wise, he said, “Yeah, I feel good.”
Harper’s teammates reacted after the game to Williams’ decision to replace Harper for not running out the grounder:
Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann: “That is up to Matt. I don’t have much say at that. I try to stay out of it. Hopefully, he learns, I guess.”
Right fielder Jayson Werth: “It has nothing to do with me. I have played on teams where if you don’t hustle, you get taken out of games. Pretty standard. But talk about taking care of your area, that is not my area.”
Asked whether it was it hard to watch Harper on the bench when his spot in the order came up in the ninth inning, Werth said, “I think that goes without saying, don’t you?”
“I think that is part of the game,” Werth added. “You show up here, you be on time, you hustle. Not a lot is asked of us. But (these questions are) focusing on one small part of the game, I feel like there is a lot more that went on that led us to losing this game.
Second baseman Danny Espinosa: “It is a coach’s decision. That is Matt’s rules and he makes the decisions.”
To see Williams’ reaction to Harper’s actions, click here.