Bryce Harper took his frustration out on his bat after he struck out the first time up against the Miami Marlins on Saturday night. He ended up walking once in five plate appearances, but striking out four times. Harper’s manager, Davey Martinez, talked after what ended up being a 4-1 win about the 25-year-old slugger’s frustration level, while avoiding the topic of the dugout violence.
“You know what, he’ll snap out of it, that’s the only thing I can say,” Martinez told reporters.
“He’s fouling his pitches off. We’ve got to get him to slow down a little bit, take his walks, get his hits, get on base, and start having fun again.
“We need him, and like I said before, he’s one of the best players in baseball, and any given day he can get three hits, hit three home runs, and move forward.”
While he’s struggled at the plate in May, with a .214/.275/.524 line, he has hit five doubles and seven home runs, with six walks, and 22 Ks in 91 PAs heading into the series finale in Miami on Sunday afternoon.
“He hit some balls hard,” Martinez added when he spoke to reporters before Sunday’s game, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“Yesterday, obviously, he’s fouling more pitches off than normal. Usually, if he gets two swings per at-bat, he’ll put one in play. Yesterday he was just fouling balls off.
“In this league, when you’re hitting with two strikes, league average is really low. You just got to go up there and get your pitch and try not to miss it.”
Harper K’d swinging through at 1-2 fastball the first time up against Elieser Hernandez in the third game of three with the Marlins, and popped up on a 3-0 fastball in his second at bat, 0 for 2, but the third time he stepped to the plate, against left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia, he took a 2-2 fastball that drifted inside for a ride to right field, for his 16th home run of the season.
He added a sac fly RBI in his seventh inning before striking out looking on a questionable called third strike in his final plate appearance, finishing the day 1 for 4 with a run scored, two RBIs, and two Ks.
But that home run, right?
“That was a bomb, you know,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ 5-2 win.
“But you know we’re going to get that from Bryce. He’s going to hit his home runs, and like I said, we really want him to take his walks, and let the game come to him, and not chase the game. That’s the biggest thing for him. We need him and he knows that. And I [told] him, I said, ‘You just do your part and everyone do their part and we’ll be fine.’”
Could a big hit like that help Harper?
“It helps him a lot, it really does,” Martinez said, “... and like I said, he’s just missing pitches, he really is, and for him to come out there, especially against left-handed pitcher, and hit the ball like that, that’s a good sign.”
“I feel great up there, just trying to get a pitch to hit and staying within myself,” Harper told MASN’s Dan Kolko in a post-game interview on the field.
“I’m chasing a little bit right now,” he added, “... but if they do throw it over the white, I’m going to do some damage.”
As for his frustration-level? Harper said it would be worse if the Nationals weren’t winning.
“I’m not really too frustrated because we’re winning ballgames,” Harper explained, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo on Twitter.
“If I hit .230 and I hit 40, I’ll take it any day of the week. So I just got to keep taking good swings and get some stuff over the white thing. If I can do that, we’ll be OK.”