Not only has Harper been on an "another level" kind of hot streak, with a .333/.472/.732 line on the year and 10 home runs in the last 18 games, over which he's put up a .393/.513/.967 line, but he was 2 for 5 with two HRs off O'Sullivan with one in each of the righty's outings against the Nationals this season.
"'[Harper is] a guy that gets your attention no matter what, him and [Ryan] Zimmerman back to back,'" Sandberg told reporters, as quoted by CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman.
"'You have to have a purpose with every pitch, be down in the zone and minimize. Make him hit the ball on the ground, and focus on every pitch."
It's hard to call the 1-2 fastball up high outside that Harper hit to left off O'Sullivan for a solo home run in the second a mistake pitch, but the 22-year-old, 2010 no.1 overall pick somehow powered the 91 mph shoulder-high heater out to tie the game up at 1-1 after the Phillies jumped out to an early lead on Max Scherzer.
Harper didn't dwell on the blast too much, telling reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, that he didn't think too much about what was his 16th home run of the season.
"'See it and hit. Plain and simple,'" Harper said. "'Just trying to see and hit the ball, and I wasn’t really thinking too much.'"
Nats' skipper Matt Williams, who hit his share of home runs over his 17-year playing career, was a little more openly impressed.
"The ball didn't tail to the line at all," Williams said. "And I rarely see -- any of us would rarely see -- a ball that is hit to the off side with power like that that doesn't tail. He stayed inside. I think the ball is up and in. I really don't know how he hit the ball that way, with that authority, with where the pitch was. He got up the next time and got a changeup off the end of the bat a little bit, but he's seeing the ball good and he's continuing to help us. I don't know how he hit that one though."
Harper finished the night 1 for 2 with an intentional walk. In the last ten games, Harper is 14 for 30 with two doubles, five home runs, 11 walks and three Ks.
"I like where he's at," Williams said. "I think he's taking his at bats seriously. I think he's understanding that the ball is going to go over the fence sometimes and he's going to be on base via the hit sometimes, but he really helps his teammates out when he can be patient enough and walk and get on base for them.
"Once he's on base he has multiple talents. As we've seen, he can steal second base, he can score from first on a ball in the gap, and so it just helps our team.
"So, he's being patient enough to get good pitches to hit and if they don't give him those pitches then he's gladly taking his walks and setting up Zim and [Wilson Ramos] and the guys that are behind him."
In his final at bat of the night in the seventh, O'Sullivan walked Harper intentionally with two down and a runner on third to get to Ryan Zimmerman, who grounded out to third to keep it a one-run game at 2-1.
It was the sixth intentional walk issued to Harper, who now leads the NL in another stat category. Hot as he is at the plate, Williams was asked if he's surprised that opposing teams aren't walking Harper intentionally more often?
"It depends on the situation, of course," he said. "But I think we've got a proven RBI guy that stands in the on-deck circle when he's at the plate and we've seen Zim come through on multiple occasions this year.
"He's got 30+ RBIs already and those opportunities, he loves.
"So, as the opposing manager, you have to decide whether it's appropriate at that time to walk Harp intentionally and face Zim. I have lots of experience in being the guy that stood on deck when somebody was intentionally walked and it provides opportunity for the guy that hits behind him, so it's important for Zim to relish those opportunities if he gets them and he'll come through for us a lot."
We talked about Scherzer's outing, Zim's walk-off and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly: