“Tried to get a pitch over the plate and drive it the best I could,” Bryce Harper told reporters after he hit a high 3-1 curveball from Chicago Cubs’ right-hander Carl Edwards, Jr. to right field for a two-run, game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Harper’s first home run since he returned from an extend stay on the Disabled List with a significant bone bruise and calf strain in his left leg tied things up at 3-3 and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a three-run blast later in the eighth inning to lift the Nationals to a 6-3 lead and a series-tying win.
“Saw a loop in it, and you know, tried to hit it as hard as I could,” Harper said.
“Bryce is good. C.J. is good. Bryce got him,” Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon said when asked if he’d considered going to a left-hander against Harper in that at bat.
“That was the only option,” Maddon said. “That was the right option. C.J. was the right man for the job. Harper is good, C.J. is really good. C.J's numbers against left-handed hitters are amongst the best in all of baseball.”
Edwards, Jr. did hold left-handers to a .119/.244/.193 line, two doubles, and two home runs in 129 plate appearances this season, but Harper got him this time.
“He made a bad pitch and the guy didn't miss it, and that's it,” Maddon added.
“Sometimes that happens.”
Harper, who was 0 for 3 on the night at that point, and 1 for 7 in the series, walked reporters through the at bat that ended with his fifth postseason home run.
“First pitch was a curveball in the dirt. Great swing on that pitch,” Harper deadpanned.
“Next three were heaters up in the zone. And then, you know, I thought to myself, runner on first, didn't think he was going to throw a pitch over the plate, to tell you the truth. I thought he was going to throw a curveball back down in the dirt.
“I thought about taking the whole way. And then I saw the loop in the curveball and said, why not swing as hard as you can. Got barrel on it and a pretty good moment.”
“We knew Harp was due,” Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker said.
“He's known for the big moment. Man, he blasted that ball a ton. You know, he hung a breaking ball and that's what you're supposed to do with it.”
Baker talked before and after Game 1 of the NLDS about Harper working to get his timing down after all the games he missed recovering from his injuries.
Is it safe to say the Nats’ slugger found it?
“He's on the way,” Baker said. “You know, he's not quite back. Like I said, he hung a [breaking ball] to him, and he deposited it in the upper deck. Hopefully that's the beginning.
“Like I said, the longer that we play, the better Bryce will be because each pitch he sees, that's leading towards him getting his timing back.”
The Nationals, who were five outs away from falling behind 2-0 to the Cubs when the eighth inning rally turned things around, are on the way too.
“I mean, I think the train's coming,” Harper said. “We're a great team. We've got Max [Scherzer] coming in Game 3. I don't know Game 4 or Game 5, but take it one inning at a time, one at-bat at a time and do the things we can to get on base and put pressure on them. You know, Chicago is tough, going in there playing in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.”
Going in there down 2-0 to the defending World Series Champs would have been a lot tougher.