Dusty Baker considered giving Bryce Harper a night off in Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he stuck with the 23-year-old slugger, who hit a 3-1 fastball 451 feet into the third deck in Nationals Park in his first at bat, giving Washington a 2-0 lead early in what ended up an 8-1 win.
"I was going to give him a day off today," Baker said after the game, "because I thought he was looking a little -- they were jamming him and you usually don't jam Bryce, and we had a talk and I just said, 'Hey, slow your feet down,' which everybody has been saying all along and he looked more like Bryce today, except when he was facing [reliever Luis] Avilan."
Harper went down swinging in his final at bat against the Dodgers' left-hander chasing a full-count pitch out of the zone to end a seven-pitch battle.
"He thought with the score the way it was that he would come after him," Baker explained, "but invariably if you don't have 'come after'em' stuff you're not going to come after them, so just lost a little patience there and kind of gave away that at bat."
Harper got all of the 3-1 pitch from Bud Norris he hit into the upper deck in right though, and he talked after the win about the advice Baker offered and how it echoed what he'd heard from his former manager last season.
"I think that last year, the biggest thing that Matt [Wiliams] always used to reiterate to me is that, 'It's not how far, it's how many.' Once it's over the fence I could care less how far or whatever. If I can just keep getting pitches to hit and put some good swings on them then I'll be right where I need to be."
As for slow feet?
"Matt said the same thing to me last year a lot, 'Slow feet, quick hands,' and just really trying to stay within yourself and Dusty came up to me and he said that to me today and it hit a light bulb a little bit.
"But like I said, Matt had those little things that he'd say to me last year and really clicked for me and so for [Baker] being able to come up to me and tell met that definitely clicked a little bit."
So far in July, Harper is 14 for 62 (.226/.338/.419) with four home runs, 10 walks and 12 Ks in 74 plate appearances.
On the year, the defending NL MVP has a .250/.391/.478 line with 11 doubles and 20 HRs in 396 PAs.
Harper is in the lineup again for tonight's series opener with the San Diego Padres:
#Nats vs Padres 1 of 3: Revere CF, Werth LF, Murphy 1B, Harper RF, Ramos C, Rendon 3B, Turner 2B, Espinosa SS, Roark P— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) July 22, 2016