Bryce Harper has hits in 10 of 12 games coming out of the All-Star Break. The 20-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder is 15 for 45 (.333/.375/.556) with two doubles, a triple and two home runs over that stretch, leaving the second-year major leaguer with a .276/.372/.528 line so far this season. After going 3 for 7 in the Nats' back-to-back losses in Detroit, the 2010 no.1 overall pick told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, that he thought his team had to become a family again before they could turn things around in what's been a disappointing season for the defending NL East Champs:
"'We got our [butts] kicked for two games,' Harper said. 'That’s something you don’t want to have happen. But you got to have heart. That’s the biggest thing right now. You got to play with heart. You got to play as a family. Everybody’s got to want it, starting with the manager on down – everybody. Everybody wants to win this and keep going.'"
According to reports from Miller Park tonight where the Nationals begin a three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers with Jordan Zimmermann back on the mound in his home state, Harper has continued his attempts to get his teammates to rise to the challenge of making something out of the 2013 campaign:
Bryce Harper made up new shirts for the Nats. They read: "To the last minute, to the last second, to the last man, we fight!"— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) August 2, 2013
New t-shirt in the #nats clubhouse courtesy of Bryce Harper. It says "To the last minute, to the last second, to the last man. We fight."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) August 2, 2013
Can Harper's aggressiveness inspire his teammates in the 54 games remaining on the schedule? Davey Johnson told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden, Jim Duquette and Casey Stern before the All-Star Game that the spark he brought to the lineup on the field was sorely missed when he sat for over a month with a knee injury earlier this season.
"The thing about Bryce," Johnson said, "... some of my key players are a little more passive -- not as aggressive on the field as I'd like -- and I think he gives them that energy, because, if anything, he goes overboard with energy. And so, he was missed. Not just what he does with the bat, but just his way and approach to [playing] the game of baseball."
Can Harper become a clubhouse leader as well? Harper and the Nats take on the Brewers at 8:05 pm EDT tonight in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Here's lineup that will back up Jordan Zimmermann in the first game of three:
#Nationals lineup at MIL: Harper 7, Rendon 4, Zimmerman 5, Werth 9, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Span 8, Ramos 2, Zimmermann 1— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) August 2, 2013