Full credit to Nationals OF Bryce Harper, who proved during Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Mets that even during a down year, he’s fully capable of going head-to-head with Yasiel Puig when it comes to disrespecting-the-game hysteria. As CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman explains, Harper letting Scott Rice off the hook last night didn’t escape the notice of of bench coach Randy Knorr.
“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough: He gets frustrated,” said Knorr, who had to take over for an ill Davey Johnson mid-game. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”
Harper found himself at the plate for the biggest at-bat of the night, with two on and two out in the eighth, the Nationals trailing by a run. Mets manager Terry Collins countered with reliever Scott Rice, banking on Harper’s well-documented struggles this season to hit lefties. Rice, though, fired three straight fastballs low and inside to fall behind in the count 3-0.
With the NL’s hottest hitter, Jayson Werth, standing in the on-deck circle, a walk felt like the ideal outcome for Harper. Knorr, though, gave his 20-year-old slugger the green light, and Harper responded by fouling off a 3-0 fastball on the lower inside corner.
Harper then swung at Rice’s 3-1 fastball and rapped a sharp grounder right to second baseman Daniel Murphy. The crowd of 35,008 let out a groan, and Harper slowed down a couple of steps out of the batter’s box, assuming the inning was about to end.
But Murphy bobbled the ball, and though he recovered in plenty of time to make the throw to first, Harper’s lack of hustle in that situation still didn’t sit well with others.