Josh Harrison collected hits in 9 of 10 games between May 13th and 23rd, leaving him with a .307/.380/.457 line on that year to that point, but the 33-year-old in his 11th major league season has struggled since, at least offensively, with just four hits, all singles, over the nine games that have followed, taking him down to .270/.345/.390 on the season, with seven doubles and four home runs in 43 games and 177 plate appearances on the year. Not bad for a guy who was re-signed to come off the bench as a utility man.
“He’s been playing really well,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said earlier this week.
“He’s been probably one of our most consistent players all year long, so he’s another guy too that brings energy, like [Victor] Robles. He brings energy every day, and I love watching him play.
“He’s playing really well at second base. He’s hitting the ball hard, so for me it’s just he’s doing everything we asked him to do.
“Whether it’s hit second, hit fifth, sixth, wherever we put him he’s doing well.”
The key to Harrison’s consistency at the plate and in the field in his manager’s mind?
“Honestly, I think just being on time with his swing. He’s a guy that has to get his front foot down, and when he does that, he puts good swings on the ball, and at second base — he’s been healthy. The biggest thing this year - he’s dealt with some health issues in the past, and this year he’s been healthy. Every now and then I’ve been giving him days off to keep him healthy, but when he’s healthy, he’s an unbelievable player.”
Harrison told reporters after Thursday’s series finale in Atlanta, in which he went 0 for 3 with a walk, that he was trying to remain consistent with his approach and swing in spite of what has been a tough stretch at the plate over the last two weeks, though he’s made some solid contact, which hasn’t resulted in hits.
“You just got to keep plugging away,” Harrison said. “It’s easier said than done, I’ll be honest. Because we play a game that you worry about what you can control. If I’m swinging at good pitches and hitting the ball hard, that’s all I want to do, but at the same time you want to be rewarded. But I’ve also been on the flip side where I’ve swung at bad pitches and gotten rewarded, so it’s that balance of knowing that you know the approach of going up there swinging at whatever I want and whatever happens, happens, I got to be willing to live with it, good, bad, or indifferent. Things haven’t really gone — I don’t even want to say my way, I’m going to say our way as a team, we’ve had some situations where things could have gone differently, but like I said, got to keep plugging away and not get result-oriented, because I could very well sit here and say let me change something, but if I’m barreling the ball that’s all I really care about because if I try to change something I’ll go to not barreling the ball, and feeling a lot worse.”
The entire team has taken a similar approach, sticking with what they’re doing since they’re making solid contact even if hits aren’t falling in, and, as Harrison said, that’s all they can do as they try to get more consistent production at the plate.
“Guys are grinding,” he said. “Part of baseball is not letting the day before affect, whether good or bad, the current day, but and also not letting the previous at bat affect your next one, or vice-versa. But it’s part of baseball, we just got to do a better job of locking in 1-9 and taking advantage of those opportunities when we’ve got runners in scoring position or we got that other pitcher on the ropes, but it’s also baseball. We expect to get it done every time, but we’ve got to know that we’re not going to get it done every time, but that’s where we as a team got to rely on each other to continue to move the line.
“If we don’t get it done, the person behind us ... and it’s a work in progress, but at the same time we’ve got to keep trusting the process, and come for each day and not dwell on what’s happened in the past, because the past is the past, that’s the beauty of baseball.
“We have plenty of opportunities, but those opportunities do run out. I don’t want to sit here in August and say we got plenty of opportunities, we’ve go to get to it now.”
Harrison was echoing his manager’s comments after the loss in the finale with the Braves, about it being go-time now, with the Nationals seven games under .500 after 53 games at that point.
“I definitely agree. Go-time,” Harrison said, while noting that in reality it’s really go-time from the first game of the season.
“You get to this point in the season, we’re two months in, it’s no longer saying let’s get our feet under us and we’ve got time, I mean we’ve got four months left, but at the same time, as quick as these two months went by the next four will go by.”