Dusty Baker decided to give Bryce Harper a day off on Wendesday when the Washington Nationals were facing New York Mets' left-hander Steven Matz in the series finale of the three-game set in the nation's capital.
Baker explained that he was looking for opportunities to get the scuffling 23-year-old outfielder, and a few other regulars some rest, but not all at the same time and with an eye on the road trip that followed the seven-game homestand.
"I didn't want to sit Bryce and a couple guys at the same time against St. Louis and I wasn't going to sit Bryce against the Phillies in that little band box and then we go to another band box from there in Cincinnati.
"When I started adding up things and I figured that against a tough lefty this was the day to sit him."
Harper, Baker explained, had been working hard behind the scenes after struggling to square the few hittable pitches he's seen up in recent weeks, and he thought the day of rest could allow the things he's been working on to sink in.
"I've noticed in my many years as a hitter and batting coach and a manager," Baker said, "that sometimes you work, work, work, work and work and then it takes 24-48 hours for your body to memorize the correct muscle memory act that you were doing -- trying to get back to normal.
"Sometimes you take a break -- Boom! -- then it gives your mind and your body time to get together as one to memorize what it's done."
Harper collected a hit in all four games against the Cardinals, homering twice in 16 plate appearances, which matched his home run total over the previous 28 games and 119 PAs.
Now the defending NL MVP and his teammates head to Citizens Bank Park, where he'll try to extend his six-game home run streak, over which he's hit seven home runs.
Harper starts the three-game set in CBP with a .325/.385/.692 line, four doubles, three triples and 11 home runs in 31 games and 130 PAs in his major league career.
Here's the Nationals' lineup for the series opener with the Phillies:
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