Bryce Harper singled to center in his first at bat last night in Citizens Bank Park, taking a 91 mph first-pitch fastball from Philadelphia Phillies' right-hander Jerome Williams back up the middle for his fifth hit in twelve at bats to that point this season.
Harper struck out in each of his next three at bats, however, a day after going 0 for 4 with 3 Ks against New York, with all three strikeouts against Mets' right-hander Matt Harvey.
"He swung at some balls out of the strike zone today," Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams told reporters after the loss to the Mets on Thursday in D.C.
"The strikeouts were balls up in the zone, and with Matt that ball comes in there pretty quickly, so one of the keys against him is to make sure that we swing at strikes. He got Harper a couple of times today. The last ball he hit fairly decent, but I think he's just fine."
After Harper K'd swinging in his two at bats against Williams last night, and K'd looking in his final at bat, against Phillies' reliever Ken Giles, Williams was asked if he saw anything different after he'd praised Harper's approach following a 2 for 3 day against the Mets in the second game of the season?
"No," Williams said. "Just the last at bat he took a called third. The third at bat he expanded the strike zone a little bit. You go through those stretches. But I like where he's at. I like the way he's been swinging it. He got a base hit up the middle the first time tonight. He'll be fine. I like where he's at."
Cole Hamels is scheduled to start for Philadelphia tonight in the second game of three for the Nationals against the Phillies in CBP.
Will Harper be in the lineup? Or will the Nats' skipper take an opportunity to get one of his bench players some at bats against the Philly lefty?
In Hamels' last four starts against the Nationals, Harper has been available, but out of the lineup, though at least one game came shortly after the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick returned from the DL (wrist surgery) last season.
Though Harper has put up decent numbers against the Phillies' starter thus far in his career (8 for 25, .320/.393/.360, one double, two walks, four Ks), and put up a respectable .263/.333/.432 line against lefties last season, he hasn't faced Hamels since 2013, sitting out each of the left-hander's four starts vs the Nats last season, though he made pinch hit appearances later in those games.
Last season, one of the options was to let Scott Hairston face Hamels. Hairston, of course, pwns Hamels, with a gaudy .375/.415/.792 line, five doubles and five home runs in 53 career plate appearances against the lefty, but Hairston's no longer with the Nationals.
Reed Johnson has a .310/.363/.454 line against lefties over the course of his 12+ seasons in the majors. He's just 3 for 12 career vs Hamels, with a double and three Ks.
Will Harper be in the lineup tonight? We'll have to wait a few hours to see...
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