WASHINGTON, D.C.: In seven games against the Chicago Cubs last season, Bryce Harper was just 2 for 15 (.133/.576/.133) with three strikeouts and 16 walks (13 in 19 plate appearances over four games in Wrigley Field).
Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon discussed the approach they were taking with the then-defending National League MVP after the series finale in Chicago.
"You know how good he is and why tempt fate right there?" Maddon asked reporters rhetorically.
"Now if the other guy gets you, that's fine. You have no problem with that whatsoever.
"I know he's not been as hot as he can be coming into this series, but you don't want to get him hot. I've been part of that in the past, so we did what we thought we had to do today and it happened to work, so good for our guys."
It was the first half of the home-and-home series between the two team. In his NL MVP campaign the previous season, Harper went 6 for 20 (.261/.414/.739) with two doubles, three home runs, six walks, and four Ks in seven games and 29 PAs against Maddon’s club, in the manager’s first season in Chicago.
In the second half of that season’s series, Harper went just 1 for 11 as the Nationals took two of three from the Cubs in D.C. last June.
He was 3 for 8 with a walk in the first two of four with the defending World Series champs in 2017 heading into last night’s game, and Harper went 2 for 4 with two doubles, a bases-loaded walk, and a run scored in the Nationals’ 8-4 win over the Cubbies.
Dusty Baker talked after the third game of the series about seeing positive signs from the Nationals’ three-hole hitter, who’d been in a mini-slump before back-to-back three-hit games in the finale with Cincinnati and opener with Chicago, and Baker discussed how the Cubs were approaching Harper this time around.
“Bryce was patient, it seemed like he’s getting his act back together,” Baker said, “and when you see him taking pitches and not really going for a lot of the bait, then it’s a different series than when we played them last year.
“Last year, they were walking him a lot, and this year I figured there were some times when they could have walked him and didn’t. He’s swinging the bat well, he ran the bases well and he really hustled in the outfield and it was an overall good game for Bryce.”
“It’s tough you know,” Harper said when asked about his patient approach with the bases loaded.
“You want to do damage and do everything possible that you can to help your team win, but I try to go up there and wait for a pitch to drive and especially with bases loaded right there you’d rather cash in three or four instead of one, but it worked out and we got some runs in that inning and definitely huge for us and hopefully we can go out tomorrow and do some damage as well.”