After this afternoon’s 11-1 trouncing at the hands of the Tigers, the 20-year-old Harper aired some of the frustration that he’s been feeling lately, with the Nats now four games under .500 and 10 1/2 games back of the Braves in the National League East.
The Nats scored two runs in these two games in Detroit and were outscored 16-2 overall, snapping a three-game winning streak and leaving the Nats heading to Milwaukee back in another rut.
“Just got our (butts) kicked for two games,” Harper said. “It’s something you don’t want to happen, but you’ve got to have heart. That’s the biggest thing right now. You’ve got to have heart right now. You’ve got to play as a family, and everybody’s got to want it, starting with the manager on down to everybody. And everybody wants to win this and keep going and whatnot, but we need to keep doing that. We need to get going and play better, hit better, have better ABs in certain situations and pitch better also. It’s something that we need to do.
“We play the Braves nine (more) games. This (expletive) ain’t over. I really don’t think it’s over. So we’ve just got to keep going, keep grinding and turn into the family that we were last year.”
Harper was asked whether he feels the Nats are lacking the heart to which he was referring.
“I mean, absolutely,” he said. “I’m not the one to speak on it. I try to be a leader, but I’m younger. I think there’s things that we can do better, and I think everybody knows that. We’re a better team than we’re showing right now.”
As Harper indicated, the Nationals have nine games remaining against the Braves, who currently have a commanding lead in the division. If they’re able to take, say, seven of those games, they give themselves at least a chance of making up the requisite ground in the final third of the season.
“We can’t worry about the Braves, we’ve got to worry about staying out of fourth, fifth place,” Harper said. “We’re a game ... I don’t even know where we’re at now. A game in front of the Mets, or behind the Phillies. I have no clue. But we’ve got to keep taking it one game at a time and play these last two months like we’ll never play this game again.”
The main thing that Harper kept reverting back to was the concept of family and togetherness. The 2012 Nationals were a tight-knit group with quality clubhouse guys like Michael Morse and Mark DeRosa. This year’s group appears to get along just fine, but Harper seems to feel that there’s something missing.
He also seemed to imply that the attitude hasn’t been right in the clubhouse, even from the coaching staff. Earlier today, manager Davey Johnson referred back to his “World Series or bust” slogan from this winter, and said with a laugh that this season “looks more like bust.”
“I mean, we just need to be a family again. That’s the biggest thing,” Harper said. “It all starts with having good camaraderie in the clubhouse, having an upbeat clubhouse every single day, having an upbeat manager and staff every single day, no matter what. We could be 10 games up, but we’ve got two more months.
“We’ve got two more months of baseball, and if we play like we’re capable, we will win this and we will do it. I know that for a fact, because we’ve got a great team, a great organization and we have guys on this team that are unbelievable. We need to keep going, keep grinding, and do the things that we need to do.”