Are you one of those people who is angry that Bryce Harper is likely getting a planned night off tonight, after going 4 for 4 with a home run, two singles, and a triple in last night’s win in the series opener with the LA Angels?
Harper is 11 for 21 with a double, triple, four home runs, four walks, and four Ks in five games coming out of the All-Star Break, but Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters last night that he planned on resting the right fielder in the second of two in Anaheim.
“I told him he was — we agreed that he was off tomorrow, you know what I mean,” Baker explained, “so I said, ‘You give me all you got,’ cause I’ve given everybody that was a regular a day off after the All-Star Game, which I like to do because those guys don’t get a break.”
“One-day break isn’t enough,” Baker said, “where the rest of us had four days, you know what I mean? So I just told him, ‘Hey, man, give me all you got,’ and then help us win tonight, and then we’ll worry about tomorrow.”
Harper homered to center field in his first at bat, singled the second time up (and was thrown out on an attempt to take second base), singled again in the sixth, then tripled in the top of the eighth, and scored to put the Nationals ahead, 3-2, in what ended up a 4-3 win.
Baker was asked if he had any issue with Harper trying to take second on the play he got thrown out on. He did not. He also noted that the play was close enough that the Nationals challenged the ruling, though it was upheld.
“He was hustling, he was hustling big time,” Baker said, “we thought he was safe, that’s why he challenged, and he knew Ben [Revere] and Ben was coming in and charging hard to get the ball, and couldn’t really gather himself to make a stronger throw.
“And so, that’s the way you play baseball, you can play safe or you can play smart and he was playing smart.”
Through 86 games this season, the 24-year-old outfielder has a .337/.442/.632 line, 22 doubles and 24 home runs in 389 plate appearances, over which he’s been worth 4.6 fWAR, and 172 wRC+, coming off a .243/.373/.441, 24 double, 24 home run, 112 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR campaign in 2016.
Baker also talked last night about what’s been different for the 2010 No. 1 overall pick this season.
“Probably No. 1 he’s healthy,” Baker said, “and No. 2 he’s not in a hurry at the plate like he was last year, and he doesn’t like his year last year, and it happens, everybody can have a down year, the public and the media, they don’t see it like that, but some years everything falls, and some years nothing falls. But yeah, we knew Bryce was going to bounce back, because he doesn’t like not performing well and doing well, and so we weren’t worried about that, as long as he was healthy his ability would take care of itself.”
Part of keeping Harper and the rest of the Nationals healthy, of course, is giving them breaks when he can to get them through the entire schedule. A day off today, will also give Harper two days of rest since the Nats don’t play tomorrow.
Baker rested the Nats’ other All-Stars, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, earlier on the current road trip, and now it’s Harper’s turn... then again, maybe he’ll argue his way in... we’ll find out when the lineup is released.