The list of superlatives that were used to describe Bryce Harper in the Nationals’ clubhouse late last night was a lengthy one.
“He’s a man-child,” outfielder Michael Morse said. “He’s unbelievable.”
“The kid’s a gamer,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “He’s unbelievable. One of the best players I’ve ever seen, to be honest.”
This all came after Harper delivered another big-time moment - his first career walk-off hit in the Nats’ 7-6 12-inning win over the Mets last night.
It was a piece of hitting which once again showed Harper’s immense skills and ability to make adjustments under pressure. After striking out swinging on three pitches (two of them way out of the zone) against Mets reliever Elvin Ramirez in the 11th, Harper fell behind 0-2 with the bases loaded and two outs against Ramirez in the 12th.
He then changed his approach, spread himself out and threw his hands at a ball on the outer half of the plate. He got a 96 mph heater from Ramirez and put the barrel on it, smacking a sinking liner into left for the game-winning hit.
“He got me out of my comfort zone that first AB I faced him,” Harper said. “He was effectively wild and he got me. So I’ve got to tip my cap and I was thinking, ‘If I go up there again, I’m going to get him.’ I got him and we won the game.”
Those that don’t watch Harper every day, those that just know him as The Most Hyped Position Player in Decades, might be growing tired of hearing and reading about the 19-year-old and his greatness three or four (or five or six) times per week.
Those people might not notice that in less than a month and a half, Harper has already done enough at the plate to lead the Nationals in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Those people might not have seen that nearly half (half!) of Harper’s 36 hits have been for extra bases, or that if he had enough at-bats to qualify, his OPS would rank 23rd in the majors, above All-Stars like Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, and, yes, Prince Fielder.
Those people might not be familiar with Harper’s desire to be great, a desire which is so intense that even after winning the game for his team on his first career walk-off hit, Harper was critical of his performance, saying he was “pretty pissed off” that he only went 2-for-7 on the ballgame.
All of that makes the hype around Harper warranted, and it’s part of the reason why his teammates, who aren’t easy to impress, are left shaking their heads and praising the rookie time after time.
“I don’t think of him as a 19-year-old kid, but that’s what he is,” last night’s winning pitcher, Ross Detwiler, said. “He’s going to be around for a long time, so it’s awesome to see him learn and really just grow as a player right now.
“You know he’s going to be in the same position he’s in now in 10-15 years. So it’s pretty cool to see the beginning of it.”