Jayson Werth worked the count full and walked with one down in the bottom of the seventh inning last night, setting Bryce Harper up with a runner on in what was a 3-1 game as Harper stepped to the plate against San Diego Padres’ reliever Kirby Yates.
Werth stole second base on a 1-1 pitch in the dirt, 2-1 count. Harper took a mid-90s fastball inside, 3-1, fouled off a 94 mph heater, 3-2, fouled off a backdoor slider, then unloaded on a full-count slider, sending it into the upper deck in right field for a two-run home run that put the Washington Nationals up by four, 5-1.
Harper’s blast traveled 407 ft to right field, spending 6.5 seconds in the air.
“That was one of the longest [expletive deleted] home runs I’ve seen hit, that really was,” fill-in skipper Chris Speier said after the game.
Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo walked Harper intentionally when the slugger came up with a runner on second in the third, and walked Anthony Rendon unintentionally to load the bases before Adam Lind grounded out to end the threat.
Harper was 0 for 2 with the walk before he hit his 15th home run of the season.
Speier talked about Harper’s approach this season after the Nationals took the series opener from the Padres.
“I think he’s kind of understood that now, you know, a guy like that, that’s in that role, he realizes his value is also getting on base, because this team right now is swinging the bat pretty well, and not just Bryce, the people around him and behind him, so I think he’s maybe grown up a little bit with that, last year, that experience, I think it helped.”
His two-strike approach has been impressive too.
Harper’s 29 for 98 (.296/.367/.622) with eight doubles, eight home runs, 11 walks and 35 Ks in two-strike counts in 2017, and 7 for 25 (.280/.500/.680) with a double, three home runs, 11 walks and 10 Ks in full-count at bats.
“I don’t know, just trying to hit the baseball and have good at bats,” Harper said when asked about his success with two strikes this season.
“I think I like hitting offspeed a little too much as well, so when I do get an offspeed pitch up in the zone, it’s fun to hit, take a chance and put a good swing on it and see what happens.”
His nine intentional walks this season lead the majors too, tied with the LA Angels’ Mike Trout, but Harper said he’s taking advantage of his time in the on-deck circle even when he does get put on intentionally.
“Just trying to stay as locked in as I can, take at bats in the on-deck circle as well and try to face that guy in the on-deck circle the best I can and try to lock it in on there.
“Take an at bat there and if I don’t get a hit then I already took my at bat, so I’m just trying to maintain it and get better and see what I can do.”