Dusty Baker talked about how important it was for Bryce Harper to go the other way after the Nationals' scuffling 23-year-old slugger hit his 14th home run of the 2016 campaign to left field in Petco Park this past weekend in the first stop on Washington's West Coast road trip.
"That means you're staying on the ball and that means you're letting your natural ability come through versus forcing it," the 67-year-old former major leaguer explained.
It was the first clearly opposite field home run by Harper this season, after he hit 12 of his 42 home runs last season to the left of center field.
Harper hit No. 15 of 2016 out to left in Dodger Stadium with two down in the first on Tuesday night, taking a 3-1 fastball from Scott Kazmir out the other way for a solo blast that put the Nationals up early in the second game of three in LA.
Harper went 2 for 5 on the night in LA, singling to center for his second hit in the top of the seventh.
Baker liked what he saw from Harper at the plate, as he explained when he was asked about Harper's swings after what ended up a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.
"I liked them a lot," Baker said. "When you start hitting the ball the other way and up the middle, that means you're staying on the ball, so hopefully he's about to get hot."
Danny Espinosa hit one out to left-center off Kazmir too, sending an 0-2 change over the fence for his 13th, making it 2-0 Nationals in the top of the 5th.
Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless on an efficient 81 pitches, then hit for himself in the eighth, singling to left for his second hit of the night (and season) only to have Wilson Ramos thrown out at home on the play.
Roark issue his first walk of the game to Joc Pederson in the first at bat of the Dodgers' eighth, however, and Yasiel Puig singled on a line drive to short that clipped the top of Danny Espinosa's glove and fell in for a hit.
Yasmani Grandal stepped in next and hit a 94 mph 1-2 fastball to center for a three-run home run that put the home team up, 3-2.
What went wrong in the eighth? Did Roark tire? Baker didn't think so.
"He wasn't tired. He wasn't close to tired. In the eighth inning, we thought that 3-2 pitch [to Pederson], we thought it was a strike and then Danny almost makes the play, and then he had Grandal fouling balls off over there and a ball came back over the heart of the plate."
Brooksbaseball.net agrees that the 3-2 pitch to Pederson was a strike, sorry Doug Eddings:
Grandal, the Dodgers' switch-hitting catcher, has been struggling from both sides of the plate this season with a .182/.308/.364 line, a double and a home run vs left-handed pitchers and a .183/.303/.351 line vs right-handed pitchers, but his power (seven doubles, five home runs) is from the left side, this season and over the course of his career, so Baker said he stuck with Roark rather than going to the pen for a left-hander.
"We know [Grandal is] a better left-hand hitter than a right-hand hitter, and you've got [pinch hitter Trayce] Thompson up next, so you'd have to burn like two or three guys.
"And then I thought [Roark] had enough to -- shoot, it was under a hundred pitches at that time, so, heck, you know Tanner. He wasn't tired. It wasn't hot.
"He just made a mistake and we didn't hit with runners in scoring position. I think we were like 1 for 10 or something like that with runners in scoring position. This is what we've got to get better at."
It was a frustrating end for the Nationals and for Roark, who had put together a solid outing to that point.
"He was dealing," Baker said. "The walk, that was his only walk of the game, and then the line drive and then the home run and that was the ballgame."