Bryce Harper was 0 for 4 with three Ks in the series opener with the Marlins in Miami on Monday night, striking out in all three plate appearances against Trevor Richards before grounding out in his final at bat of the night.
On Tuesday night in Marlins Park, Washington’s 25-year-old slugger walked in all five of his plate appearances, taking walks Nos. 119-123 this season, to become the first player in the National League to walk five times in one game this season.
Harper is one of only two players in the majors, along with the Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor, to walk five times in a game this season.
It wasn’t even a personal best, however.
Harper walked six times in one game against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field back in May 2016, tying the MLB single game record set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938 (who walked six times in a nine-inning game), and matched by both Boston’s Andre Thornton (in 1984) and Houston’s Jeff Bagwell (in 1999) who, along with Harper, took six walks in extra innings games.
“Today I think I stuck with my plan pretty well,” Harper told reporters after a 4-2 win over the Fish.
“I think if I wouldn’t have swung the bat yesterday like today,” he added, “... then I probably would have nine walks in the series right now, so I just got to wait for a pitch over the dish that I can drive and I wasn’t able to get that today and I was able to get on base five times.”
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked how he tries to help Harper keep from getting as frustrated as he has in the past when he’s not given anything to hit.
“We talked about it today,” Martinez said. “I think he’s got like 125 hits and 123 walks. I told him, I said, ‘You might be the first player that has more walks than hits, so keep going.’
“It’s just the way it is. Why get yourself out? If they don’t want to pitch to you, then take your walks and be that teammate, and that’s what it is, just being a better teammate and getting on for the next guy.”
Just to fact check the first-year skipper, plenty of players have had more walks than hits in a season, including Barry Bonds, who did it in four-straight seasons between 2001-2004, but Harper, who finished the game on Tuesday with 123 walks and 126 hits, is close to becoming the latest player to accomplish that feat (of sorts).
While the Marlins avoided letting Harper be the one to beat them (whether by design or just a lack of execution in Harper’s PAs), they couldn’t keep all the Nationals in check, with Adam Eaton, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon all putting up multi-hit games.
“I think we’re a team with a lot of length and we’re pretty dangerous all the way through, so pick your poison with anybody in the lineup,” Harper said. “Everybody’s got an opportunity to go out there and get a couple knocks a night and get some runs scored, and that’s huge for the guys we do have.”
“We did leave some runners on base early,” Martinez said, “and we’ve got to get better at that, but I still like the at bats.
“They’re taking their walks, they’re putting the balls in play, Anthony [Rendon] drives in a nice run with just a sac fly, those are the little things that matter.”