Harping on last night’s Harper homer

Jayson Werth’s grand slam was the big blow last night, the one you’ll see on all the highlight reels and the one that lifted the Nationals to a dramatic 10-7 win over the Marlins.

It was a huge blast, both in terms of distance and in terms of importance, helping the Nats turn another deficit into a victory.

But let’s talk a bit more about Bryce Harper’s home run earlier in the game last night, a shot that not only pulled the Nats back into the ballgame but also might have pulled Harper out of an early-season funk at the plate.

Harper had been 4-for-26 with no extra-base hits entering that at-bat. He had talked a few days earlier about how he was “lost” at the plate. He was fouling off pitches he normally crushes and shooting frustrated looks at the dugout with each mistimed swing.

But in the fourth inning, Harper kept hanging around against Marlins left-hander Brad Hand, slapping pitches foul down the third base line and living to see another day. He kept hearing his teammates and coaches shout encouragement at him from the first base dugout. And then Harper delivered.

The Harper homer - his first of the season - came on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, and it flew a long, long way. The Nats left-fielder dropped the barrel on a 94 mph fastball off the plate inside and crushed it over the right field foul pole, good for a three-run shot that brought the Nats back within two runs of the Marlins at 5-3.

HitTrackerOnline has Harper’s blast at 416 feet. The Web site measured the speed of the ball off Harper’s bat at 110.5 mph.

Yeah, it was crushed.

“I’m just happy it went over the wall and we got three runs out of it,” Harper said after the game.

In Harper’s next at-bat, he stayed on a first-pitch slider on the outer half and smoked the ball to left, another good swing from a guy who admitted over the weekend he wasn’t having many good swings.

In basketball, you often hear about how a struggling shooter can get back on track if he just sees one shot go through the hoop. His confidence will spike and he’ll get the feeling for a successful shot, allowing him to try and replicate that feeling the next time he lets one go.

The same sometimes goes in baseball. If a slumping hitter can put one great swing on the ball, one swing where his timing is right on and his mechanics fall into place, then the lightbulb might go off. He might snap out of the skid and get back on track.

The Nats hope that’s the case with Harper, who certainly has the potential to go off when he’s feeling good in the batter’s box.

“It was good to see him get going a little bit,” Werth said. “That kind of carried over to his next at-bat, too. Hopefully he can build on that and we can continue to win games and build on this one for sure.”

“That’s a big swing for him, confidence wise,” manager Matt Williams said. “It’s a big swing for us.”

The Harper homer cut the Marlins’ lead from five to two, making last night’s comeback much more possible. It also might just get Harper back on track offensively, which everyone in that dugout would love to see.

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