MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 29: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals celebrates a home run against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper's first home run in the fourth inning last night traveled 355 ft to right field. It was just Washington's second hit off 21-year-old Miami Marlins' right-hander Jacob Turner, who had retired the first nine Nationals he faced in order before Jayson Werth started the fourth inning with a single. After Harper sprinted around the bases with the two-run home run, ESPN's Stats and Info Twitter feed (@ESPNStatsInfo) noted that the blast, Harper's 13th of 2012, matched the number hit by a 19-year-old Mickey Mantle in the Spavinaw, Oklahoma-born New York Yankees' outfielder's rookie campaign in 1951.
The second home run Bryce Harper hit last night came on a 3-0 fastball from Turner in the fifth inning. It landed six rows back in the second deck in right field in Marlins Park, bouncing off an empty seat in a sparsely populated section of the RF stands some 416 ft from home plate. Impressive as it was, Harper's 14th HR of 2012 was just the seventh longest home run of the year by the 19-year-old outfielder, whose light-tower power has clearly translated to the major leagues and resulted in HRs that have traveled 424, 425, 429, 434 (twice) and 438 ft.
Harper's now only two home runs away from tying Ken Griffey, Jr. (16) for third-highest home run total by a teenager in a single season since 1901, behind only Mel Ott, who hit 18 for the New York Giants in 1928 and Tony Conigliaro, who hit 24 for the Boston Red Sox in 1964. His second home run of the night and 14th of his rookie campaign moved Harper into a tie for 4th overall with the Chicago Cubs' Phil Cavarretta on the list of HR's hit by a teenaged major leaguer, though Cavarretta was in his third major league season by the time he'd hit his 14th career homer on July 9, 1936, ten days before he turned 20.
The multi-HR game, @ESPNStatsInfo noted, was the first mult-HR game by a teenager since Andruw Jones hit two for the Atlanta Braves in an August 22, 1996 game against the Cincinnati Reds. In an article on Harper's accomplishment on the ESPN Stats and Info site, they added that the two blasts made the Nationals' center fielder, "... only the third teenage centerfielder to have a multiple-homer game in major-league history."
Harper's two home runs were the big story of the Nats' win, which snapped a five-game losing streak on a night that the NL East's second-place Braves dropped a game to the San Diego Padres, but they weren't the only story about the Nationals' outfielder unfortunately. After grounding into a double play late in the game, Harper spiked his helmet as he sprinted by first and when it came a little too close to first base ump CB Bucknor, the Nats' 19-year-old outfielder earned his first major league ejection. Did Bucknor view the spiked helmet as a commentary on his call? Or think it came too close? Who knows? Both Nats' first base coach Trent Jewett and 69-year-old skipper Davey Johnson argued vociferously on Harper's behalf, but Bucknor was having none of it.
The ejection, after Harper's gotten attention for a series of displays of frustration (broken bats, destroyed helmets) in what has been a difficult second half at the plate, will unfortunately now be a part of the story of his big night in Miami. Don't believe it will get covered along with the homers? Here's how Willie Geist put it on MSNBC's "Way Too Early" this morning after showing the two blasts. "The game also will be remembered for another career first for young Bryce," Geist said while showing the game highlights, "In the ninth, he grounds one to the right side, the Marlins start a 3-6-3 double play, Harper out at first, he spikes his helmet in frustration [and] first base umpire CB Bucknor looks at him and gives him the hook."
Harper told reporters, including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, that he realizes he needs to curb some of the outbursts:
"'I just need to stop getting pissed off and just live with it,' Harper said. 'I just need to grow up in that mentality a little bit. Try not to bash stuff in and things that I've always done my whole life. Those need to change.'"
Nats' manager Davey Johnson told reporters after the game that he'd addressed the ejection in a conversation with the outfielder. "A little negative," Johnson said, "Bryce couldn't control his emotions again. I had a little chat with him. He'll get over it. He's just a hundred-percenter. He expects great things out of himself. He breaks bats, throws his helmet, and he's just got to stop it. Can't afford to be losing him in a ballgame with that. He'll learn. He's young. He'll learn."
The reason for ejection didn't matter to the manager. "He's wrong in doing that. He's wrong in breaking his bats. He's wrong with throwing his helmet down in frustration. Like I [said], he's a hundred-percenter, he's full bore. When he doesn't like the outcome he shows it off that way and it's just a learning experience."
Johnson also had some praise for the outfielder he's championed since last winter when he argued for Harper making the team out of Spring Training. "He crushed that second [home run]," Johnson said, "On that 3-0 pitch. I don't know how far it went, but it went a long way. So a lot of good things happened with him and like I [said], I told him, 'I just can't afford to lose you while you're expressing your emotions that way. You just can't do it. Come inside the runway and break a bat over your head or something.'"
"He also hit his head before the game in the locker room," the veteran manager and former major leaguer added. "Showed me the top of his head. So, he's a little emotional."
"When did that happen?" a reporter asked.
"Before the game," Johnson said.
"How did it happen?"
"I don't even want to know," Davey Johnson laughed.