So did Davey Johnson call for Bryce Harper to bunt? Washington's 20-year-old, second-year slugger stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with the Nationals down 5-3 to the New York Mets after both Scott Hairston and pinch hitter Denard Span had singled off left-handed reliever Scott Rice, the same pitcher who got Harper to ground out on a 3-1 pitch with two on and two out in the eighth inning of the 3-2 Nats' loss in the first game of the weekend series on Friday night.
NY skipper Terry Collins was so sure Harper wasn't bunting he told his infielders to back up. Harper, who was 0 for 1 with two walks to that point, appeared to be in pain throughout the game. He took a first-pitch slider for a strike, then squared to bunt on the second pitch from Rice and got one down, moving both runners into scoring position with the sacrifice.
Anthony Rendon's one-hop liner to short off right-hander Gonzalez German in the next at bat scored Hairston from third and Ryan Zimmerman's infield/short-center single in the next at bat brought Span in to tie the game up at 5-5.
Jayson Werth lined a 2-1 fastball to right after that and Zimmerman made his way around from first to score the go-ahead run in what ended up a sort-of-miraculous 6-5 comeback win.
• Here's what Werth told ESPN's Buster Olney about his eighth inning double:
As for Harper's bunt? Davey Johnson told reporters Harper was bunting on his own. "It ain't a bad play," Johnson said, "he's bunting for a base hit. It was a heads-up play by the second baseman [Daniel Murphy] to be able to get over there and cover. Nine times out of ten, you don't get over there."
Asked about Harper's limping and an odd reaction after a missed swing earlier in the game, Johnson said he was concerned enough to ask the outfielder if there was an issue...
"He was limping," the Nats' skipper said, "and I asked him, I don't know, after his second at bat, and I said, 'You all right?' He limped coming out of the box and he limped going down to first, but he said he was fine, so." Johnson didn't think Harper bunted because he was injured or hurting though. "As tough times as we've had hitting with runners in scoring position, putting the tying run down there ain't a bad idea. And with some pretty good hitters coming up behind him, Rendon hit the heck out of the ball. Bad break. Right at him. And then the other two guys delivered, big hits."
The Nationals avoided the sweep at the hands of the Mets with the win on Sunday night and delayed at least for a little while the questions Johnson and the Nationals know are coming if they fall short this year after winning the division last season and getting a taste of the postseason last October.
"Oh, believe me, I think everybody knew," the 70-year-old skipper joked. "And even in the questions beforehand, the conversation was, 'Last year you have had all this attitude or 'Natitude,' and now you've lost it.' I said, 'No, we haven't lost it, just had a little, few leaks in the boat is all, but the talent is here and the attitude or 'Natitude' is still pretty damn good."
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