Though Bryce Harper would admit just a few minutes later that running into the wall was definitely a concern as he attempted to track down Gregor Blanco's two-out, game-tying triple in the ninth inning of last night's game in AT&T Park, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson wasn't sure it was an issue for his 20-year-old outfielder though even he noted it might have been in his head. "He's playing back for doubles and preventing doubles," Johnson said, "and the ball was hit well. I mean, he could have had another one of those deals where he ran into the wall... but..."
"I though he went after it hard," Johnson said, "and got close and then jumped for it, but the ball was hit well, so..."
Harper told reporters it was definitely in his mind as he tracked Blanco's hard hit ball toward center:
Bryce Harper said to put the loss on him. Felt he should've caught Blanco's triple and admitted collision w wall entered his mind.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) May 22, 2013
Harper jarringly honest. Said he felt the wall and blamed himself for the loss. "It's something I got to get over," he said.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) May 22, 2013
Blanco's triple, on a 1-2 slider up in the zone, scored Buster Posey's pinch runner, Andres Torres, all the way from first two outs after the Giants' catcher reached on an infield single that bounced off Nats' closer Rafael Soriano's glove and died in the grass to the side of the mound. "When you got two outs when you play away," Soriano told reporters, "you're supposed to, you know, a guy hit a ball, it's got to be in front of you, not like what happened tonight." USA Today's Jorge L. Ortiz quoted Soriano explaining further in Spanish what he thought of that particular play:
"'With two outs and the tying run at first, you have to play the outfield so the ball doesn't go over your head,'' Soriano said in Spanish.
"It may not have been a catch-able ball, but if we're positioned the right way, there might have been a different outcome. With two outs, I could tell my four-year-old son, 'You know where you need to play,' and he would go to the right spot to make the play. It's not an excuse, and I'm not speaking badly about anybody, but I think that's how you play the game.''
• Blanco's Game-Tying Triple:
Of course, as Davey Johnson explained, the Nationals shouldn't have been in the position they were with a one-run lead. There were plenty of opportunities for the Nats' offense to give the team some breathing room. With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, Kurt Suzuki grounded into a force at home in front of starter Stephen Strasburg to waste an opportunity to add to Washington's 2-1 lead. Denard Span doubled to start the eighth, took third on a sac bunt by Harper and was stranded there two outs later.
"We didn't get the hits when we needed to," Johnson told reporters, "when we had the table set and had the right guys up there. We just didn't get it done and then we didn't hold them. Stras had a rough start and threw a lot of pitches early, but gave us a good strong seven innings and we were in a position to win that and we didn't win it. It's tough."
The Nationals' manager explained that if Strasburg's early inning issues hadn't cropped up again, raising his pitch count up to 108 pitches after seven, he might have been able to go deeper. "If he hadn't struggled the first couple of innings, I mean, I think he had over 40 pitches or something after two. I probably would have even gone further with him, but he pitched a great game, set up for our pen and our pen just didn't hold it."