Harper on struggles: “I am pretty lost right now”

Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper’s frustrations early this season at the plate reached a boiling point after striking out to lead off the eighth inning of a 6-2 Braves win Saturday night.

One video replay appeared to show him throwing his batting helmet as he walked down the steps into the dugout and then toward the clubhouse after the strikeout.

On Saturday, he went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, dropping his average to .143.

“I feel terrible, plain and simple,” Harper said, still in full uniform at his locker 45 minutes after the game.

“I am pretty lost right now, actually,” Harper continued. “I am trying to see where my swing is at, watch some video where my hands are. I am trying everything right now. We will see where I am at tomorrow. Give Pops a call. See what he says also.

“Swing doesn’t feel good. That is all I can say. Trying to go in every day and try to do some drills that work and feel good in the cage, feel good on BP. I haven’t had my BPs where I hit the ball to left or right and things like that. It has been pretty (expletive) actually.”

Manager Matt Williams said Harper’s frustrations reached the tipping point on that eighth-inning strikeout by the Braves’ Ian Thomas.

“Bryce’s frustration in the last at-bat tonight was he swung at a bad ball,” Williams said. “At some point, there’s that tipping point where frustration shows it itself. It is oftentimes good to let it out, too. You can go out there and act like it isn’t bothering you, but it bothers everybody. Sometimes it is good to let it out.”

“Some of that motivates Bryce,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of Harper’s angry reaction to the swing and miss. “When he goes through some of that, he does wear it on his sleeve. But a lot of times, that is his way of getting it off his chest and being done with it. Instead of keeping his frustration in, he chooses to air it out once in a while and be done with it.”

But Williams also believes that with all the frustrations now mounting in Harper’s game - he had had only two hits in his last four games - Sunday might be a good day to give the kid a day off.

“That is one of the topics of conversation tonight,” Williams said. “When that frustration rears its head, it’s oftentimes good to give a day. So we will give a serious look at that with the off-day coming after that.”

LaRoche said rough patches like this happen to every player, and can especially sting for a 21-year-old in only his third full season.

“He is young, he will learn those 0-for-4s can turn into a lot worse if you carry them into the next day,” LaRoche said. “He will be fine. We have all talked to him. It is kind of a part of the growing pains there of figuring that part of it out on his own.”

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