Bryce Harper crumpled to the ground in obvious pain after fouling a 95 mph 0-1 fastball from Kansas City Royals' starter Ervin Santana off his own left foot in the first at bat of the sixth inning on Sunday. Harper stayed down for a while. Trainer Lee Kuntz and manager Davey Johnson came out for a look after the 20-year-old outfielder attempted to stand and found he couldn't put any pressure on the foot. Jayson Werth wandered over from the on-deck circle too to check on his teammate. Harper stayed in the game. Santana threw a slider inside at Harper's back foot on the next pitch. Washington's 2010 no.1 overall pick took it for a ball, fouled one off and took another slider for ball two and a fastball for ball three to go full against the veteran right-hander, then took a 95 mph heater to center for a leadoff single.
Harper was stranded at second at the end of the sixth. In spite of the obvious discomfort with his foot, he played the rest of the finale of the Nationals' three-game set in Kauffman Stadium and hit a game-tying, two-run, seventh-inning home run to left-center on the fourth first-pitch fastball Santana threw him. The Nats fell behind 6-4 as a result of some walks and absent-minded defensive lapses, but Harper halted the Royals' rally in the eighth with a strong throw home on David Lough's two-out RBI single that nailed Mike Moustakas at the plate to keep it a two-run game after eight.
• Bryce Harper In MLB's Top 5 Plays:
A swinging K in his final at bat in the ninth left the second-year major leaguer 5 for 12 with a double and a home run in the series in Kansas City, 14 for 37 (.378/.511/.622) with six doubles and a HR on the Nationals' 10-game road trip and 90 for 328 (.274/.376/.512) with 18 doubles, three triples and 18 HRs in 92 games on the year, over which he's been worth +3.2 fWAR, behind only Ian Desmond's team-leading +4.5 and ahead of Jayson Werth (+3.0).
After the game, Davey Johnson talked about understanding why Harper stayed at the plate in the sixth in spite of the pain he was clearly in. "He hit the ball hard off his back foot," Johnson said, "and he was in a lot of pain, but he wanted to finish that at bat. Anybody else comes in there it's still going to be his at bat. So I don't blame him for hanging in there even if your foot's broken. But then he got the hit and he was talking about maybe coming out and he said, 'No, I'm good, I'm going to stay in,' and thank goodness he did."
Harper did what he could to help the Nationals try to win the finale and sweep the series with the Royals, but they dropped the third game of three in Kansas City. "In that situation, that kind of game," Harper told reporters, "I want to stay in there and try to get some knocks and try to win that ballgame. So I'm not coming out of there." Harper said the foot, the top of the foot, specifically, still hurt and was throbbing even after the game but would be fine. Assuming he starts on Tuesday when the Nats start a series in D.C. with the Miami Marlins, he'll be trying to extend an eight-game hit streak. He's 13 for 33 over the course of the streak (.394/.500/.636).
Coming out of the All-Star Break last season, the then-19-year-old struggled, going 30 for 155 between July 13th and August 26th for a .194/.266/.316 line with three doubles, two triples and four home runs in 41 games. He went on a tear after that, going 44 for 130 (.338/.403/.677) with eight doubles, three triples and 10 HRs in the last 35 games of the season.
"I think of all the guys the last three weeks of the season," Davey Johnson told reporters as the Nationals battled the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS last October, "he was as locked in as anybody I had on the ballclub." He appears to be getting locked in again.