Harper discusses facing Hamels a second time around

PHILADELPHIA - Bryce Harper was asked after tonight’s game whether he got the feeling early on that his old buddy Cole Hamels was going to keep the Nationals off-balance all night.

“Um, me personally, no,” Harper said. “But maybe for everybody else, I guess. I felt good against him.”

Harper went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk against Hamels tonight, but it was his first at-bat that he was lamenting after the game. The Nats right fielder took a 90 mph cutter out to deep left in the first inning, but he didn’t get quite enough on it, and the ball died at the warning track and fell into the glove of Juan Pierre.

“I think I should’ve hit that ball out,” Harper said. “But it happens. He got us tonight. Hopefully we can get him next time.”

What was working for Hamels tonight?

“Fastball, changeup, curveball, cutter. You name it, he had it,” Harper said. “He’s one the best pitchers in baseball. He’s 7-1 for a reason.”

As usual, Harper had an eventful day (how many games this season has he not made a couple highlights at some point?), even if the box score doesn’t reflect the true impact he made on the game. The 19-year-old made a smooth defensive play in the first inning, corralling Placido Polanco’s fly ball to right and gunning a throw on a rope to first base to double off Pierre, who had taken off for second on the pitch.

“I was trying to get it under control and not throw the ball into the seats or anything,” Harper said. “I was just trying to stay as calm as I could and get the double play.”

Harper then drilled a single to right in the sixth, which looked like it might plate Danny Espinosa from second. Right fielder Hunter Pence fired to the plate and Carlos Ruiz held on, tagging Espinosa for the second out of the inning.

“Hunter, he has a great arm. He has a funky arm, but he has a good one,” Harper said. “He made a great throw, an accurate throw, a perfect throw. And there’s nothing you do about it. Zim comes up and gets a base hit that next AB. That kind of sucked right there. But that’s just how it rolled tonight.”

Davey Johnson suggested that Harper should have gone to second when the throw went through to the plate, but Harper said he was told to stay at first by first base coach Trent Jewett.

Harper said going into the game he wasn’t going to carry anything into this contest from when Hamels intentionally drilled him in the back on May 6. He was asked following the game whether he felt any different stepping into the box against Hamels in his first at-bat of the night than he would any other pitcher.

“Nope, not at all,” Harper said. “I don’t think anybody really cares about (the hit-by-pitch) any more. Maybe that’s the reason we got Wednesday Night Baseball tonight. That was pretty cool to get on ESPN. But that’s all behind us. We’re not worried about that. We’re just trying to go out and play.”

One final note to pass along before I head out of Philly: Espinosa had his right foot/ankle wrapped in ice after the game due to that collision with Ruiz on the play at the plate.

The play looked like it might result in a nasty injury, as Espinosa got his foot bent back under Ruiz and was a little gimpy walking off. But the Nats second baseman insisted he was fine after the game.

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