Coming off a 2 for 3 game in Atlanta in which he hit a two-run home run and took two walks, Bryce Harper entered play on Monday night with 97 runs scored, 97 RBIs, and 118 walks over 639 plate appearances in 2018.
Harper was close to becoming just the sixth player since 2014 to record at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs, and 100 walks in a season, a list that includes the Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto (in 2017), the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge (‘17), LA Angels’ Mike Trout (2016), Arizona D-Backs’ Paul Goldschmidt (2015), and Jose Bautista (2015, 2014), who’s currently playing for the Phillies.
Harper had also hit 28 doubles and 34 home runs on the season, with a .249/.391/.505 line overall, up from .214/.365/.468 at the All-Star Break.
His .311/.440/.572 second-half erased some of the doubts his less-than-stellar first-half had raised, and set Harper up nicely heading into free agency this winter (assuming he and the Washington Nationals don’t agree on extension before then).
“Having 100 runs scored, 100 RBIs, that’s significant for a player today,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters earlier this month, “and the batting average, that seems to be — not of significance — it’s just more about your OPS — and he’s had an unbelievable second-half, he really has, he’s turned things around.
“He’s going to approach 100 RBIs hopefully soon and 100 runs, so he’s done great.”
Harper told reporters in Atlanta after Sunday’s win, which gave the Nats 2 of 3 from the Braves in the final series of the season with the NL East leaders, that he wasn’t too concerned with his own numbers in what’s been a frustrating season for Washington.
“I think it’s a bummer we’re not winning ballgames,” Harper said. “That was the biggest thing on my mind. I’m not really worried about my numbers or anything like that, because I am who I am, so I know that sounds bad, but I am, so any given night I’m able to go out there and do some things for this team that are special and I was able to do that today.”
His teammates have noticed his approach as well, with Anthony Rendon talking on Sunday about the way Harper’s carried himself and worked this season.
“He’s been playing for a while, so he understands the longevity of the season,” Rendon said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. “He could have easily pressed really hard early in the year, but he knew he had a lot more at-bats and a lot more games to play. He just continued to work, and it finally clicked for him.”
“He’s just going out there and having fun and playing the game,” Martinez added.
“He’s been awesome. He really has. His demeanor, the way he is in the clubhouse, with the young players. He’s been really, really good. So I appreciate him a lot, I really do.”
“Hopefully he gets close to his 40 and 100,” the first-year skipper said. “But what I like about him is he’s going out there and playing the game. He really is.”
Harper had a rough night on Monday in Miami, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and one hard-hit out to second late, leaving him at .247/.389/.501, with 28 doubles, 34 home runs, 97 runs, 97 RBIs, 118 walks and 160 Ks.
After one last game on the current road trip, Harper and the Nationals return home for the final homestand of the 2018 campaign. Will it be his last homestand in Washington?