Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 Monday in the loss to the Orioles. He has gone just 3-for-20 (.150) in the past six games with 10 strikeouts.
On Monday, Harper popped out, flew out to center field, struck out looking and was walked twice (once intentionally) in five plate appearances.
Manager Matt Williams said during Tuesday's pregame meeting with the media that he saw something in Harper's approach last night that gives him hope that Harper might be able to come out of this downturn soon.
"Timing is a little better. It's a process," Williams said. "You take that much time off (and) it's difficult to maintain timing. I think he's starting to see it a little bit better. He's a little calmer at the plate. The results weren't there. Standing in the dugout watching, it just looks calmer. Looks like he's seeing the ball a little bit better."
Does Harper know he has to be patient? Some of the helmet slams to the ground after strikeouts appear to show a frustrated player.
"He knows," Williams said. "I think he's even said it himself, 'It's going to take some time.' Standing in the box, he can also feel it, too. When he's starting to see the ball better, he can feel that, too. So it's just a question of continuing to work."
Why all the attention on Harper and whether or not he hits and hits for power?
"I think it's expectation. I think expectation has a lot to do with it," Williams said. "I think we're all human. Regardless of the job we do or who we are in relation to Bryce, we all expect greatness. So when it's not, there's a bigger emphasis. The light bulb goes on, it's a bigger spotlight. All of those things.
"Everybody goes through slumps. Everybody has injuries. Everybody that comes back from a long layoff has timing issues and needs to get back in the flow of the game. I think with Bryce, especially, that spotlight shines a little bit brighter than most folks. So there's a bigger emphasis."
But Williams also said he has the utmost confidence that Harper will find a way and then break away.
"I will tell you this, though: I think he'll be just fine," Williams predicted. "It will be good and he will be good. It may take some time and that's the case with everybody. But he'll be just fine."
Williams also said Adam LaRoche he has been able to keep the weight on. Williams confirmed LaRoche, who had trouble losing weight last season, does most of his pregame work from inside the cage instead of coming out in the heat for field batting practice.
Williams said he has not decided which direction he is leaning to for the designated hitter the next two games at Baltimore.
"We have to see how we come out of today," Williams said. "I'm not going to say whether we are going to do one guy or the other because we don't know how tonight's going to turn out. We'll figure it out. It'll be posted tomorrow."
It does lead to speculation about one obvious batting order with Ryan Zimmerman as the DH, Anthony Rendon back at third base and Danny Espinosa at second base.
The lineup will obviously shift with the Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin-Chen scheduled for Wednesday and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez on Thursday.
Did Williams start Jose Lobaton tonight because he catches Doug Fister well? Or is there another reason he is starting today instead of Wilson Ramos?
"A little bit" of the reasoning, WIlliams said, had to do with Lobaton and Fister's success in past.
"And Wilson has caught four in a row," Williams said. "We have to be mindful of his leg injury and what he's gone through this year. Both those factors came into play."
Update: The start of tonight's game is being delayed by approaching severe weather. The seating bowl has been cleared and fans have been instructed to take cover in the concourses. Stay tuned to MASN HD and check here for updates.
Update II: Tonight game has been postponed due to rain after a delay of 2 hours, 30 minutes. It will be made up on Aug. 4, a mutual off-day between the two clubs.