Bryce Harper is free! Harper served his three-game suspension, sitting out of the finale of the Washington Nationals’ three-game set in San Francisco and each of the first two games in Oakland after his altercation with Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland earlier in the week.
He’s back in there today for the finale with the Athletics in Oakland Coliseum.
Important as Harper is to the lineup, Baker talked after the series opener with the A’s about the importance of the depth that the Nationals have available this season.
“We’ve got a very formidable bench as well as lineup,” Baker said, “and they don’t have to feel like one man has to do it all the time, because anybody up and down that lineup can hurt you, and so we’ve got a good team. We’ve still got to get better and close up some holes, but in the meantime we’re still winning ballgames.”
Baker also talked about the way his second baseman has been hitting (for the last three years, really), telling reporters after Daniel Murphy’s four-hit game that the 32-year-old infielder’s success at the plate comes with confidence. Murphy followed up on his four-hit game on Friday with a three-hit day on Saturday.
“He has an idea,” Baker explained, “and it starts with an idea and an idea turns into a reality, and he uses the whole field, I think that’s the key, and he’s good against left and right and he thinks he can hit and that’s the other part of it, you have to be very confident in your ability but he’s very humble about it at the same time.
“But, you know,” he continued, “I was always told that a guy doesn’t reach his prime spiritually, psychologically and physically until he’s about 30-31-32 years old and then the next five to six years, as long as he stays healthy should be tip-top years, and so Murph’s on a run like that, he takes care of himself, he’s a clean live-er, and so barring injury this should go on for a while.”
Speaking of injury, Murphy’s game on Saturday ended with a hit-by-pitch in the ninth, an at bat after Jayson Werth fouled a pitch off his foot. Werth left the game after he hit a single. Murphy stayed in after the HBP, but was stranded as the Nationals fell, 10-4.
Baker was asked for an update on both of them after the loss.
“Yeah, it just kind of looked like — probably more concerned with Jayson because it him off the same spot that -- when he was out a couple days, on his foot,” Baker said.
“And on Murph, it hit him in the leg here, so we anticipate hopefully Murph won’t be too sore tomorrow, because he’s swinging a hot bat.”
Murphy has a five-game hit streak going, with multi-hit games in four of five on the road trip, over which he’s 13 for 23 with three doubles and a home run.
Murphy is back in there for the finale with the A’s. Werth is sitting this one out, with Brian Goodwin in left.