Bryce Harper has walked so often this season that his post-free pass routine has become almost as familiar as his glove readjusting, plate-tapping pre-pitch routine. Harper drops his bat between his feet after ball four, undoes the shin guard on his right, front leg, drops it in the batter's box and takes his base. He's done it 104 times this season, taking the second-most walks in the majors, behind only the Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto (116). He currently leads the majors in OBP (.464).
Harper walked four times last night, and he scored each time he reached base. He walked his way into the record books as part of a pretty exclusive list:
Bryce Harper pulled, finishes as only 4th player ever to have game with 4 runs but 0 AB. Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson, Larry Doby the others— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) September 4, 2015
Cleveland Indians' center fielder Larry Doby walked five times in five plate appearances in a September 19, 1951 game against the Boston Red Sox, and scored four times in a 15-2 win.
Cincinnati Reds' second baseman Joe Morgan walked four times in four plate appearances and scored four runs in a 12-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on July 27, 1953.
Rickey Henderson was an outfielder with the Oakland A's on July 29, 1989 when he walked four times in four plate appearances and scored four runs in a 14-6 win over the Seattle Mariners.
Bryce Harper did them one better last night. He also managed to collect an RBI since one of his walks came with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning of what ended up a 15-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Harper was also just the second player in the last ten seasons to see 20 or more pitches in a game without taking a swing:
Bryce Harper faced 20 pitches, didn’t swing at any of them; 2nd-most pitches w/o a swing in a game in last 10 seasons (Juan Uribe, 21, 2010)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 4, 2015
"He's taken the steps necessary to make himself the player he wants to be," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the game.
"So, knowing that he's got to be aggressive in the strike zone, if they throw him one to hit in a situation where he can drive a baseball or get a knock or get on there for us, he's ready for that, but he's also patient enough to recognize balls off the plate. It's maturity level coming through."
Harper told reporters, including MASN's Chris Johnson, that he's taking what he's given and trusting his teammates to make the most of the opportunities his walks create:
"I mean, I've done it before," Harper said. "I've done it in high school. I've done it in college. I did it when I was like 10 years old. It's part of the game. Like I've said numerous times, I've got the confidence of everybody on the team to get the job done behind me. And you saw that tonight. That was good."
"Like I've been saying, I've got confidence in everybody on our team to get the job done behind me," Harper said. "I'll take my walks when I can. And when they throw the ball over the plate, I'll take my hits, too."
Williams told reporters that there may have been a little more than patience involved in Harper's decision not to offer at any pitchers in any of his four plate appearances.
He left Wednesday night's game with a left glute issue, which he aggravated on his way to first base on Tuesday.
"It's a little of both," Williams said, noting that patience and the glute issue played a role in his approach.
"I know that he wasn't 100% today. You could tell by the way he was moving around. He was measured in everything that he did. He had to go on one ball down the line which he was able to do just fine.
"But he was measured in every other way. Of course we went through all the pregame activity, and made him go out and run and made him hit in the cage and made do all the things to pronounce himself ready to play. So it's a little bit of both I think."
Harper's sprint around the bases on the "one ball down the line" Williams referenced, was impressive enough that it got the Statcast treatment:
With Ryan Zimmerman swinging the bat the way he has in the last few weeks, it's going to become more and more costly for opposing pitchers who put Harper on.
Zimmerman doubled to send Harper around to third before he scored on a single by Clint Robinson in the first.
After he walked walked with the bases loaded in the second, Zimmerman hit a sac fly to drive in the Nationals' fifth run and after a walk to Robinson, Yunel Escobar drove Harper and Anthony Rendon in with a two-run single.
Harper walked and took third on a two-run single by Zimmerman in the third before scoring on another single by Robinson.
Zimmerman's double drove Harper in for the fourth run he scored after Harper took a leadoff walk in his final plate appearance in the fifth.
"That's why Bryce didn't swing at a pitch and scored four runs," Williams said. "There's your proof in the pudding right there."