Still harping on Harper

You know what's fun?

Being around opposing team's reporters and members of the national media and hearing them discuss Bryce Harper.

Those of us who watch the 19-year-old play every day are accustomed to his speed, power, baseball awareness (most of the time) and hustle. Those who haven't witnessed Harper in action as much are wowed by what they see even on days when the youngster doesn't light up the stat sheet.

As I wrote last night, Harper's statistical performance in yesterday's loss to the Phillies was nothing to write home about. He went 1-for-3 with a walk.

Harper strides to second wide.jpgBut the pinpoint-accurate throw to first to double off Juan Pierre, the bobbling catch in right, the aggressive baserunning in the fourth in which he twice tagged and moved up a base on fly balls to center - all of it had people in the press box talking.

Meanwhile, over his last 11 games, Harper is hitting .326, has an even 1.000 OPS, two home runs, three triples and six RBIs

Kind of scary to think about what might happen when Harper really gets comfortable, huh?

Here's a great quote from manager Davey Johnson, who was asked yesterday if Harper stands out in the clubhouse because of his age.

"The only reason I know he's young is when I look over at some of the girls in 'Harper's Hotties,' " Johnson said. "They look like they're about 16 or 12 or something."

The Nationals have six of their 18 games this season against the Phillies already in the books, but they'll have to wait quite a while for their next match-up with the five-time reigning National League East champs.

These two teams don't square off again until July 31, meaning we'll know a lot more about where each squad stands when the Phillies next travel down Interstate 95 to Nationals Park. What we know now is that the Nats have taken four of their six meetings with the Phillies, and are 4 1/2 games clear of their division rivals at this point.

The NL East remains the only division in the majors in which the first- and last-place teams are separated by fewer than five games.

What's that tell Harper about what he can expect the rest of the season? It tells him the competition within the division will be fierce.

"We're going to battle," Harper said. "Atlanta's going to battle a little. And the Marlins, you know they're going to come up strong also. The NL East is really good. Great pitching, great hitting. Everybody tries to battle every day.

"The Phillies are who we're probably going to go after the next couple years. They're good. And we're good. It's all good."

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