"'In, out, up, down, back and forth, light, heavy, tried it all,'" 19-year-old Washington Nationals' rookie Bryce Harper told reporters Monday night when asked about the prospect of facing the Mets' knuckler R.A. Dickey, against whom he was 0 for 10 with 6 Ks in his rookie campaign before last night's game. "'Just can't hit the guy," Harper said, so he didn't expect to be in the lineup. As SNY Mets announcers Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling joked during last night's broadcast, having played for Davey Johnson in the past, a comment like Harper's almost guaranteed he'd be in the game against Dickey and he was on Tuesday. Harper went 4 for 5 on the night in the Nationals' 5-3 win.
Harper was 3 for 4 against the the knuckleballing Dickey with a first-inning double, his 21st, and singles in his next to at bats against the veteran Cy Young candidate. Harper hit into a double play in his final at bat against the Mets' right-hander, but collected his fourth hit of the night in his final at bat of the evening against left-hander Josh Edgin, who's held left-handers to a .140/.189/.220 line on the year.
The Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick credited Jayson Werth, who was 11 for 25 with three doubles, two home runs, three walks and four Ks vs Dickey before last night, and 13 for 27 with five walks after going 2 for 2 w/ two walks vs Dickey in last night's game, with allowing him to get a good look at the NY knuckler. Harper told reporters after the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Mets last night that he thought it was just a matter of luck whether you connected for hits against the veteran knuckleballer. "'I think I was fortunate to get a couple knocks tonight,'" Harper told an AP/ESPN reporter after the game.
In the same article, Davey Johnson was quoted explaining his motivation in putting Harper in against Dickey before the rookie collected three hits off the Mets' starter in Tuesday night's game:
"He's going to have to learn how to hit a knuckleball. It's too early to be dodging anybody," Johnson said. "Bryce has had a day off and he doesn't need one. He's stronger and younger than anybody out there. And that knuckleball might find his bat. It may take a wrong little knuckle and go right into his bat, and I know he's going to be swinging hard enough, it could cause some damage. So I'm willing to take that chance and have him in the lineup."
After last night's game, Johnson joked with reporters about Harper. "Harp didn't want to play against the knuckleballer," the Nats' skipper said, "But he got three hits, so now he realizes he can hit a knuckleballer, so we're over that hump." In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies this morning, Johnson continued to praise his 19-year-old outfielder. "He's an unbelievable talent and I mean, I've had some unbelievable talent," Johnson said, "I had [Daryl] Strawberry and I had a 17-year-old named Dwight Gooden, I saw him throwing about 95 [mph] and painting with it. But [Harper is] a good young talent, and he's a gamer. I mean, Bryce might be my favorite player of all time because he plays the game as hard as anyone can play it and he never lets up. He's wonderful to watch."
After his four-hit game last night, Harper has a .265/.337/.458 line on the year with 21 doubles, seven triples and 18 HRs in 119 games. Oh, and the four hits last night?: