Bryce Harper was 5 for 25 with a double a home run and nine Ks on the Washington Nationals' six-game road trip to Philadelphia and Boston, leaving him with a .250/.325/.444 line when he returned to the nation's capital for the start of the Nats' seven-game homestand.
In the first game of four with the Phillies on Thursday night, he went 0 for 2 with two walks, two Ks and two runs scored with both walks against Philly lefty Cole Hamels.
When Nationals' manager Matt Williams spoke to reporters before Friday night's game, he talked about Harper's approach at the plate and how the 22-year-old slugger looks when he's locked in.
"The calmness is key for him," Williams said. "Being calm at the plate. Rick Schu likes to call it -- when he gets too jumpy he rages out at the ball, he goes to the ball instead of letting the ball come to him. That's the telling sign with Bryce, is if his lower half is calm then he sees the baseball, his head doesn't move and he's able to pick pitches on and off the plate to hit."
Williams said he saw signs that the 2010 no.1 overall pick was settling in on Thursday, with a patient approach at the plate against Hamels.
"Last night, yeah," Williams said, "he had some good at bats against a really tough lefty, who he's had some success against, but nonetheless a tough left-handed pitcher that gives everybody trouble. So for Bryce it's calmness on the lower half and we know he's seeing the ball well."
In his first at bat on Friday night, Harper was able to avoid "raging" at the ball in his first at bat against the Phillies' journeyman right-hander Sean O'Sullivan, who left a hanging 1-2 curve up in the zone outside.
Harper stayed back and connected with the 71 mph bender and sent it out over the center field wall in Nationals Park for a three-run blast that provided all the runs the Nats would need in what ended up a 7-2 win.
"For Bryce it's not how far it's how many," Williams said after Washington's third straight win.
"He can hit it a long way, but he doesn't have to fully swing every time to do so. And that's evidenced tonight.
"Curveball, slow curveball, and he just put the head of the bat on it and it's enough. He had a nice at bat against [Jake] Diekman to help us get insurance runs there. So he's doing fine, doing just fine."
The Phillies brought Diekman out to face Harper with a runner on and two out in the seventh of what was then still a 4-1 game. Harper was 1 for 7 with four Ks vs the left-hander before the at bat, but he worked a walk out of the lefty and set Ryan Zimmerman up with two runners on.
Zimmerman's two-run double to right broke the game open, giving the Nationals a 6-1 lead.
Harper ended the game 1 for 2 with two walks, one from Diekman, one intentional, and a three-run home.
On the year, at the start of his fourth major league season, Harper's now 10 for 40 with a double, three home runs, eight walks and an NL-leading 17 Ks, one ahead of teammate Michael Taylor.
• We talked about Harper's homer, his approach on a fly to right by Odrubel Herrera early in last night's game and more on Nats Nightly w/ Tom Bridge from the District Sports Page and FBB's Doghouse after the Nationals' 7-2 win last night: