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Washington Nationals’ Ryne Harper quietly putting together solid season, and then...

You may not have noticed how good Ryne Harper has been this season...

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Last Sunday’s appearance by Ryne Harper in the eighth inning of what ended up being a 6-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves for the Washington Nationals was relatively uneventful, with the curveball throwing, 32-year-old reliever retiring the side in order in a 10-pitch, eight-strike, 1-2-3 frame at home in the nation’s capital.

The outing left the right-hander with a 0.79, a 2.39 FIP, six walks (2.38 BB/9), 18 Ks (7.15 K/9), and a .132/.193/.171 line against in 22 23 IP this season.

“He’s been good. He’s been a bright spot in the bullpen. He knows who he is, he knows his identity,” manager Davey Martinez said after the scoreless frame by Harper late in that game.

“He doesn’t give in, he throws his curveball for strikes, he’s got three different ones, he’s got that little pause and hesitation at times where it’s a tough at bat.”

Tough enough, the fourth-year skipper noted, that Ozzie Albies, a switch hitter, decided to hit from the right side against the right-handed reliever, who has thrown his curve 56.7% of the time this season, holding hitters to a .139 AVG on the pitch, with just one extra base hit, and right-handed hitters hitting .111 on the pitch, and left-handers .167 after Sunday’s game.

“I watched Albies today get against him right-handed, you know, something that I — funny, because I mentioned it to [Bench Coach Tim Bogar] yesterday, against [Harper] some of these switch-hitters, if they got more pop, they think they got more pop on the other side, they probably should turn around to the other side, because it’s slow. Those curveballs are slow and sure enough Albies goes up there today, and does it, so, but he’s been really good and getting big outs for us.”

Harper’s curve averages 71.9 MPH, and he mixes in a four-seam fastball (24.6%; 86.5 MPH, .167 BAA), and a slider (18.7%; 76.6 MPH; .100 BAA).

It’s something Albies has done before, with five plate appearances as a right-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers this season, and Martinez talked about potential advantages for hitters of staying on the right side against Harper.

“Albies, to me, he’s got more power, he stays back on the ball a lot better [right-handed] than he does left-handed, and when I thought we talked about him yesterday, and he went down, and he came back up today right-handed to face — and it’s just ironic that we had mentioned it yesterday in the dugout and he does it today.”

More of a coincidence, really, than irony, but interesting, yes.

Overall on the season, right-handed hitters had a .071/.152/.095 line, with one extra-base hit off off of Harper, (a double), while left-handed hitters had a .206/.243/.265 line with just two extra-base hits (two doubles) after Sunday’s outing.

Harper didn’t pitch again until Martinez turned to him in the top of the seventh inning in the second of two with the Toronto Blue Jays in the nation’s capital yesterday, with the Nationals up 4-2 at that point.

Harper walked the first batter he faced, putting Randal Grichuk on, and one out later, Corey Dickerson hit the first home run off the Nats’ righty in 23 IP this season, and just the third he has allowed between Triple-A and the majors in 2021, 4-4, and then it was 5-4 when Marcus Semien hit a solo shot to left on the next pitch from the reliever, a first-pitch curve, after the previous home run on a first-pitch slider.

“It’s one of those days,” Martinez said after what ended up an 8-5 win. “He’s been great, he really has, so I told him, after the game I talked to him, I said, ‘Hey, be ready, you’ll be back in there Friday, so be ready to go, it’s just one of those days.’”