Prior to Friday’s game against the Mets, Bryce Harper had been hitting just .171 since the All-Star break with an OPS of .501.
He was getting pitched tough, with opposing hurlers giving him lots of soft stuff away and very few pitches in that he could turn on. But Harper also seemed to be swinging with less authority at the plate, often making off-balance contact and failing to stay on the pitches away.
In this weekend’s series against the Mets, that started to change. Harper went 4-for-8 with two homers and a triple over this three-game span, driving in four runs in the process. He swung with authority, turned on mistakes left up in the zone and attacked the baseball.
If you think that’ll be enough to get Harper to relax a bit or appreciate what he’s been able to accomplish, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.
“I’m never satisfied with my work,” Harper said. “I’m never satisfied with anything I do. We’re in first place and that’s the biggest thing I care about. My numbers could be really crappy but we’re in first place. That’s all that matters.”
With his work this weekend, Harper became just the fifth player to ever hit 12 home runs in his age-19 season, joining a star-studded foursome of Tony Conigliaro, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mickey Mantle. Harper also became the first teenager ever to have 12 homers and six triples in the same season.
Even with his recent struggles, Harper is doing something nearly unprecedented for a player of his age and with his level of experience.
“He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he could help us win,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “Just like everyone when they come up, whether they’re 19 or 29, you’re going to have struggles where you go up and down. It takes a while for the league to learn you and then it takes a while for you to learn the league. So it kind of goes back and forth until you get consistent. But Harp comes here every day. He’s ready to work and he attacks his weaknesses, is I think the best way to put it. He’s not afraid to go out there and fail and learn from it. He’s been a big part of this team.
“Harp just likes to come out and play the game the right way, and at the end of the day, if he did something to help the team win, great. If not, we won, and he’ll learn from it and come out tomorrow.”
Who’s to say if Harper can continue to make adjustments to what opposing pitchers are giving him and keep progressing as this season gets deeper? But those that are around him every day know that he has the ability to contribute in a big way to a Nationals team that has the best record in the majors.
“The kid’s got all the talent in the world,” Danny Espinosa said. “As long as he doesn’t press and as long as he’s not trying to force things to happen, he’ll be fine. Everyone sees the amount of talent he has.”