Matt Williams liked what he saw from 21-year-old Washington Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper in last night's 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins. The Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick was 1 for 4 with a run scored and a strikeout. His lone hit last night came in the sixth when Harper lined an opposite field single to left off Marlins' starter Henderson Alvarez. He advanced to third one out later on an Adam LaRoche single and scored when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw to second trying to catch LaRoche as the Nationals' first baseman took off on a pitch that bounced in the dirt at home plate and off the catcher.
Harper's single was just his fourth hit in 26 plate appearances so far in 2014, leaving him with a .160/.192/.160 line after six games. Why did Williams like what he saw from the struggling outfielder the Nats' skipper has said is just a "tick off" in his timing at the plate?
"For me, tonight he was on the baseball," Williams said, "but he was a little over-aggressive. Swung at some that were a little up, some that were a little down. But I think he saw it pretty good tonight. Took a ball to left field, broke his bat, but nonetheless he stayed on it and hit the ball the other way."
Harper K'd swinging on a 2-2 slider from Marlins' lefty Mike Dunn in his final at bat of the game, but his manager said that sort of thing happens against tough southpaws.
"[Dunn] is tough on any lefty," Williams told reporters. "And he got him behind in the count and threw him a tough slider. But that's gonna happen. It's going to happen lefty vs lefty, but I'm encouraged by one, his BP today, two, the way he tried to stay on the baseball and hit it the other way."
Harper was in the two-hole last night, but with a late-change in the scheduled starter due to an injury to Marlins' right-hander Jacob Turner, Williams dropped his left fielder to seventh in the order with Anthony Rendon in the two-hole tonight since since the Nationals will be facing left-hander Brad Hand.
"I had planned on going [with] the same lineup as yesterday," Williams explained this afternoon, "but they changed pitchers on us last night. So, Anthony certainly helps us dictate moving him to second the way he's swinging it and hopefully we create some situations for Bryce tonight with guys on base to drive some runs in for us. I think last night was a positive step for him and [we can] create some more situations for him tonight, hopefully."
• Here's the Nationals' lineup with Harper hitting seventh tonight against the Marlins and left-hander Brad Hand: