Since returning from the DL on June 30th, the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick is 4 for 31 in nine games (.129/.250/.161) with a double, five walks and 13 Ks. In spite of the numbers, Nationals' manager Matt Williams said yesterday that he sees the third-year major leaguer coming around offensively.
Before the series finale in Baltimore, Williams told reporters including Washington Times' writer Paul St. Jean that Harper is close.
"'He popped the ball up last night and he was right on that one,'" the first-year skipper and former major leaguer said
"'He was right on the other pitches, too. The second at-bat last night was first pitch changeup. His path was good and his timing was good, it was just a changeup.
"'It’s coming. I know he doesn’t want to hear that, but it really is coming.'"
Williams is watching closely and even in batting practice seeing signs that the left-handed hitting slugger, who has a .246/.323/.351 line with five doubles, two triples, a home run, 13 walks and 34 Ks in 31 games and 128 PAs, is coming around:
"'In his batting practice now, when he’s hitting the ball over the fence, say to right field, it’s straight and that’s the key,' said Williams. 'It’s not hooking, he’s not hitting top-spin liners, he’s driving the ball with backspin, it’s just pull-side.'"
Williams liked what he saw last night too. Harper struck out in each of his first two plate appearances, lined out sharply to left the third time up and the Orioles walked him intentionally in his final trip to the plate.
"It's a good sign," Williams said of the line drive out. "Staying on a baseball. The one he struck out on the at bat before is a really tough pitch, a pitcher's pitch, but him going the other way is a really good sign."
If there's any trio of starting pitchers out there that could help get Harper started, it's the Phillies' starters A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick, who are lined up to face the Nationals in the three-game weekend set in Citizens Bank Park which starts tonight. Harper's 3 for 10 with two doubles against Burnett, 8 for 28 with a double, two walks and four Ks against Hamels and 9 for 23 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, three walks and one K against Kendrick.
• Bryce Harper vs the Phillies:
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In the Phillies' home park, Harper's 19 for 59 (.322/.385/.576) with three doubles, three triples, two home runs, six walks and 15 Ks in 15 games and 65 PAs in his first three seasons in the majors.
• Harper is hitting sixth in the series opener in Citizens Bank:
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