Three of Bryce Harper's six home runs this season have come in the last week as the Washington Nationals' 21-year-old slugger has started to heat up at the plate. All three have come against the New York Mets.
After Harper ended the last homestand with a walk-off blast to left field off Mets' reliever Carlos Torres in the 13th inning last Thursday afternoon, his manager talked about what he saw from the third-year outfielder at the plate.
"That was a good swing," Williams said after the game. "He had a couple of good ones today. It's coming."
The fact that Harper took a fastball out the other was a good sign in Williams' mind.
"It's even better," he said, "that he's seeing it, letting the ball get deep. Waiting. That's a good sign. We had a lot of opportunities, it didn't happen. But that one was really good. He stayed on that one really well."
Harper's second home run in the last seven days came in the series opener in New York this past Tuesday, when he sent another opposite field home run into the Party City.com deck in Citi Field.
He turned one around in the series finale in NY last night too, taking a 1-1 fastball from Dillon Gee to right field for a 417 ft bomb that his manager said showed the power is coming back months after Harper suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb earlier this season.
"He's had some good swings," Williams told reporters after the Nationals' 4-1 win.
"He's hit some homers recently, especially the other way, but that one was, he got a good pitch to hit and did what he wanted to with it. So, very good swing."
The morning after Tuesday night's homer in New York, Williams talked about Harper's power surge in an MLB Network Radio interview.
"He's seeing it better. He's a little more calm at the plate. He's driving the ball the other way. Both of his homers in the last week have come opposite field. Hit a line drive to right last night as well, so he's seeing the baseball, he's staying back a little bit better and of course he's making good plays in the outfield too for us so, I think he's ready to turn that corner on his season, and it's perfect timing for us because we're going to need him down the stretch for sure."
Harper was 2 for 6 in last Thursday's game with the Mets, and in his last seven games he's now gone 8 for 28, .286/.323/.607.
On the year, Harper's up to a .255/.335/.392 line with seven doubles, two triples and six home runs in 240 plate appearances.
"Strength is coming back and it will continue to," Matt Williams said last night. "If he gets a ball that's in on him a little bit, sometimes it hurts him and he feels it for a day or so, but that's part of the process and coming back from that. So I think he's getting stronger by the day and he's seeing it better. Probably all starts with strength. If you feel good about it then you're able to stay back and wait for the ball a little bit and let it travel and he's been doing that."
Can Harper keep doing it and turn it on down the stretch? As he explained it recently, the rest of the Nationals have been picking up his slack as he worked to return to form.
"Hopefully in the next month and a half I can get it going," Harper said last week, "and everybody has been picking up my slack pretty much and everybody has been swinging the bat well and hopefully I can get it going."