Dansby Swanson doubled to right field, over Bryce Harper’s head, on a 96 mph 2-2 fastball from Max Scherzer that didn’t quite make it outside with two down in the fourth inning of Friday’s series opener between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
Why was Harper playing shallow in right? Was it a lack of respect for or awareness of Swanson’s opposite field power?
“A lot of pitchers like their opposite fielder to play in a little bit and take away the blooper,” Tom Glavine suggested on the Braves broadcast.
“Because that’s the one you think you made a good pitch on, and typically the one that they drive over their head was your mistake and I think in that case it was Scherzer’s mistake, got a fastball up a little bit that Dansby was able to drive and got it over Bryce’s head for the double.”
Later in the game, Blake Treinen gave up a two-out double by Gordon Beckham on a first-pitch sinker inside the infielder powered out to right field on a liner that cleared Harper’s head.
“From a pitching standpoint, I love the fact that he plays shallow,” Glavine repeated.
“Like I said, you want that opposite outfielder taking away the balls that are in front of him, like I said, because those are pitches that you’ve executed.
“That ball that goes over his head, while you might like to see him catch that ball and save a double, generally speaking, that’s on you as a pitcher because that ball was either elevated or you missed your spot that allowed him to drive that ball over that opposite outfielder’s head.”
Reynaldo Lopez gave up a leadoff walk in the fourth inning of Sunday’s series finale in Turner Field to bring Swanson up with a runner on, and the Braves’ rookie infielder hit a 96 mph 3-2 fastball that was middle-in out to the warning track in right field, over Harper’s head.
“We’ve seen it a couple times this series,” Glavine noted again, “Bryce Harper playing shallow with a lot of those right-handed hitters and a couple balls have been hit over his head.”
Trevor Gott was on the mound against Tyler Flowers in the seventh inning of the third of three in Atlanta, when the Braves’ catcher hit a line drive to right field on which Harper was once again playing shallow only to have it get over his head, though this time it was pouring rain with puddles in the outfield and a soaked track which made it a little more difficult for the right fielder to run it down.
“That’s at least the fourth ball in the two games that we’ve done that’s been hit over his head,” Glavine said.
“I appreciate that that opposite field outfielder wants to play in, because you give up a blooper that’s a good pitch, that pitch that’s over your head is the pitcher’s fault, but maybe he’s got to start giving his pitchers a little less credit.”
Dusty Baker talked after the Nationals’ loss in the series finale about Harper playing so shallow in right against righties.
“Davey Lopes had mentioned that to him, that you’re playing a little bit too shallow,” Baker said.
“I can’t blame the defensive positioning. I was going to ask Bryce himself why was he playing so shallow, especially when there wasn’t an opportunity to throw anybody out.
“Evidently he didn’t think those guys had enough power to get it over his head. There were three or four balls that went to the wall.”