It would be convenient, for narrative purposes, to say Bryce Harper’s mini-resurgence (four hits and three doubles in the last two games) was a direct result of his learning he wouldn’t get traded at the non-waiver deadline on Tuesday, but the Washington Nationals’ 25-year-old outfielder has actually been swinging it pretty well over the last 11 games (12 for 36, .333 AVG, four doubles, two home runs, seven walks, 15 Ks).
Don’t start with the whole, ‘Hey, maybe the HR Derby had a reverse effect on Harper!” stuff either, please.
“He’s really trying to stay on the ball and he looked great today,” Davey Martinez said after Harper went 2 for 4 with two opposite field singles in the Nationals’ 9-1 win over Miami in Marlins Park last weekend. “We can get him to do that he’s going to take off here in a minute.”
Harper went 1 for 4 with three walks and two Ks over the next two days in South Florida, as the Nationals struggled to generate much offense at all in back-to-back losses after they’d taken the first two games.
He went 2 for 4 with two doubles in the 25-4 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday, after the non-waiver deadline passed without the soon-to-be-free agent being dealt, and picked up two more hits in the 5-3 win on Wednesday.
“He’s playing the way he’s capable of playing,” Martinez explained. “He’s really doing well and it really started in Miami really.
“He’s using the whole field, not trying to do too much, and I told him, I said, ‘Just play the game,’ he’s hustling everywhere, so if he continues to do that we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
“I think every day you want to go out there and get knocks and help your team win,” Harper told reporters.
“I’ve been able to do that lately,” he added, “so it’s been a lot better than usual I guess.
“Just trying to go out there and have some at bats that I can get some knocks in, wait for some pitches over the plate, and got a couple the last couple days.”
On the year, Harper has a .226/.373/.482 line with 18 doubles, 25 home runs, 85 walks, and 117 Ks in 459 plate appearances, which is more in line with his ‘16 stats (.243/.373/.441, 24 doubles, 24 HRs), when, according to his agent Scott Boras, he, “... played through some nagging injuries,” than what he did in ‘15 (.330/.460/.649, 38 doubles, 42 HRs) or last year (.319/.413/.595, 27 doubles, 29 HRs).
Harper has two months before the end of the regular season to turn what has so far been an underwhelming campaign in what could be his last season in D.C. into something else as he and the Nationals try to get back to the postseason for the fifth time in his seven-year major league career.