A two-hit night in the series opener with the Miami Marlins last night left Bryce Harper 24 for 60 (.400/.471/.750) with six doubles and five home runs in 16 games so far in August.
Harper has put up a .370/.459/.696 line with nine doubles and seven home runs so far in the second-half, leaving him with a .248/.384/.518 line in 2018, which is up from .214/.365/.468 as he went into the Break.
“Right now Harper is playing baseball all the way around,” Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after last night’s win.
“Baserunning, hitting, he’s not worried about hitting home runs,” Martinez added.
“We tell him all the time, ‘Hey, you’re going to run into one,’ but he’s playing baseball and it’s fun to watch him right now play.”
That message, that if Harper worried less about hitting home runs, and focused more on just squaring it up, is something hitting coach Kevin Long stressed when he spoke about Harper with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal earlier this week.
Long said he believed that Harper’s struggles in the first half showed him his true value and would benefit the 25-year-old, soon-to-be-free agent in the long run.
“His value is not in trying to hit home runs. His value is putting together good at bats and hitting line drives, and some of those line drives will end up home runs. He really thought he could elevate his game by hitting more home runs. He has hit 40, and he thought he could elevate to 55 to 60. He found that wasn’t the case — the hard way.”
Harper’s resurgence has coincided with the likes of Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, and Ryan Zimmerman getting back and hitting like they’ve hit before as the Nationals try to make an improbable late-season run to get back into the postseason picture.
“They’re all moving pretty good,” Martinez said.
“Murph looks good. Eaton is moving around pretty good. I mean they’re all — Zim is doing really well, so they’re finally healthy and it shows.”
Harper told MASN’s Dan Kolko and Johnny Holliday after last night’s win that he and his teammates had to remain focused on each game as they finish out the regular season.
“I think every single night we go out there we’re able to win ballgames, and that’s what we can control,” Harper explained.
“Going out there playing hard, playing the game we need to. We can’t control what the Phillies do, or the Braves do, or anything like that, but we’ve got one of the best fan bases in all of baseball, they showed up for us tonight. And that’s what they’ve got to keep doing, showing up for us and we’ll show up for them, and hopefully we can ride this thing out, have some fun, there’s a lot of baseball left, in my mind.”
“We play the Phils a couple times,” Harper added. “We play the Braves later in the year as well, and I’m excited. I’m excited to be where we’re at right now, because we’ve never been in this spot. Usually we’ve clinched early or done stuff like that and we’re able to hopefully play this game the right way, go out there, and clinch at the end, why not? And be hot going into the playoffs. Let’s do it.”