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Harper has career day in Nats’ win

May 6, 2015, 5:56 PM EST

Photo by USA Today

Bryce Harper entered the major leagues in 2012 with a legend that preceded him, expectations of greatness and the potential to someday be one of the best hitters in baseball. The thought was that one day he would be capable of special things, special games that would earn him a place in baseball’s long and decorated history.

Wednesday at Nationals Park was one of those days, as the 22-year-old outfielder became the 10th-youngest player ever to hit three home runs in one game. He accomplished that feat in a span of just three at-bats spread across five innings, giving him a shot at four homers, a milestone rarer than a perfect game.

Harper had never hit three homers in one game before in the majors, but he had at several levels on his way through the amateur and professional ranks. He hit for the cycle and blasted four home runs in a game at the College of Southern Nevada. Both of those feats he did twice. He also hit three home runs in the minors during a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg last June.

Most predicted Harper would have games like this at some point in the majors, Harper himself included.

“That’s how I should be, plain and simple. That’s how I should be. That’s how I expect myself to play,” he said.

“If it’s hitting homers or hitting doubles or anything, that’s what I need to do. That’s what I expect out of myself. Of course, you’re not going to do that every single day. You’re not going to hit three homers, or whatever, and drive in five. But that’s the type of player I need to be.”

All three of Harper’s homers came off of Marlins starter Tom Koehler. The first was a solo shot to left field in the second inning, an opposite field flyball that bounced off the back wall of the visitors bullpen. The second landed in the second deck in right field, a two-run bomb in the third inning. The third homer also landed in the second deck, another solo smash in the bottom of the fifth.

The final home run earned Harper a standing ovation and curtain call from the 31,417 in attendance at Nationals Park. Harper obliged, though he later joked that he wished the crowd would have held off on the gesture.

“I didn’t want to go up there because I wanted to get one more,” he said. “I wish they would have waited because I think I got up too early. I went up there and said ‘thank you’ for that. I wish they would have waited unless I would have got four.”

Starter Max Scherzer – who earned the win in the Nats’ 7-5 victory – was fired up after the game about Harper’s performance.

“I didn’t see any of his home runs. I was actually in the tunnel underneath trying to stay cool. But I definitely heard all three,” he said. “Definitely on the second and third ones when I heard it I just looked at the security guard and said ‘see ya!’ It’s in the upper deck. I didn’t even have to watch it to know where they were hit.”

Harper had a chance for a fourth home run in the seventh inning against Marlins reliever Sam Dyson. There was one out and runners on the corners. Harper finished the at-bat with a groundout to second, one that was soft enough to score Ian Desmond from third. That gave Harper his fifth RBI of the afternoon.

Harper became the youngest player to have three home runs and five RBI in one game since Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers did so on April 17, 1955. The last player younger than him to have three home runs was Joe Lahoud of the Red Sox on June 11, 1969.

Harper is now tied for second in the NL with eight homers, that to go along with his MLB-best 26 walks. At 22 years old, he is starting to round into form as one of the most complete offensive players in the game.

Manager Matt Williams has seen that transition and thinks Harper is developing into much more than just a good player.

“I think that the biggest way that you become a leader of your team is doing stuff like he did today,” Williams explained. “So is the way he’s led thus far is he’s taking his walks. He’s providing opportunity for anybody else that hits behind him. He’s also doing what he did today. He’s playing exceptional defense. All of those things are qualities of a true leader without having opened his mouth. That’s the ultimate leader.”

With plenty of help from Harper, the Nationals are now winners of three consecutive series and seven of their last nine games. Harper also expected the team to come around after a slow start to the year and believes they will continue to get even better.

“We’ve been playing well,” he said. “People can talk about ‘oh, they started slow, or they started this or they started that. They’re not hitting, they’re not doing this, they’re not doing that.’ It’s all hearsay. We’re a great team. We’re going to come at you and play hard and play the game the right way. We got a great staff and a great lineup. We’re missing a couple of guys, but once we get them back, it’s going to be stupid.”

 

  1. 3on2out - May 6, 2015 at 6:15 PM

    “it’s gonna be stupid.” “Where’s my ring?”

    He is irrepressible. Open mouth insert cleats. I love him but it is very easy to understand why other fan bases think he is a jerk.

    • David Proctor - May 6, 2015 at 6:59 PM

      Who cares what other fan bases thing? Every single team would love to have him on their roster.

      • ehay2k - May 6, 2015 at 7:07 PM

        +29

      • knoxvillenat - May 6, 2015 at 9:41 PM

        Ehay,

        I’ll see your +29 and raise you 10.

        GYFNG!

    • Guapo - May 7, 2015 at 10:14 AM

      Being irresponsible is part of being 22.

      Given the fact that he’s been in the national spotlight since he was 15, I think he’s handling things quite well. Hard nosed player, no booze/drugs/legal issues, and works his tail off.

      Anyone who hates #34 has no clue about the game.

  2. csorrent528 - May 6, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    Bryce could carry this team on his shoulders to the playoffs. Let others think he’s a jerk. He’s our hero.

    • Guapo - May 7, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      I thought Uggla was a jerk too, until he put on the W.

      • therealjohnc - May 7, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        I never thought Uggla was a jerk (Brian McCann, OTOH … ). I just thought Uggla wasn’t a very good baseball player the past couple of years. Sadly, I still think that even with the Curly W on his uniform.

  3. Eric - May 6, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    Hearsay? Um…no. Y’all were demonstrably stinking up the joint.

    But, it’s pretty freaking amazing that they’re suddenly 7 of the last 9!

    After the Braves scored their 9th run in The Comeback I posted something like, “at this point I just want to see one or two stretches of solid baseball this season”

    I had to wait like a half inning for them to begin just such a stretch, and I’m ever so grateful for it!

    Keep it going fellas!

  4. Theophilus T.S. - May 6, 2015 at 8:35 PM

    I’ve sat in those seats where the last two HRs landed and, when you’re sitting there, you don’t think there’s any way in hell some hitter is going to dump a ball in your lap. That’s what distinguishes Harper from other hitters. He’s not a complete hitter — yet, anyway. And others hit more HRs. But I don’t think anybody has a higher percentage of HRs that threaten to achieve orbit. We all remember Harper’s first batting practice in Nats Park, where he coined the phrase “feeling hitterish.” That’s what he was feeling today. He may have gotten a couple of dozen bases on balls but I guarantee he wasn’t “feeling hitterish” in those ABs. I just hope he holds the thought.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 9:35 PM

      “Oppo Boppo” and “hitterish” were 2 great ones.

      • adcwonk - May 6, 2015 at 10:06 PM

        … and what have you

      • natsfan1a - May 7, 2015 at 6:49 AM

        and whatnot

    • NatsNut - May 6, 2015 at 10:24 PM

      and, every single day

      • Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 11:32 PM

        Haha. I used to cringe when he said that. Now I just smile.

  5. ArVAFan - May 6, 2015 at 9:15 PM

    When the Nats tweeted out the game time weather as 77 with a chance of homers , they weren’t kidding!

  6. NatsNut - May 6, 2015 at 10:32 PM

    His play, both at the plate and on defense, is very noticeably evolving and I like it. When you watch these guys so much day in and day out like us crazy fans do, you really notice the subtleties in their behavior. Well, ok, Harper’s home runs today weren’t exactly subtle, but the things the writers are talking about (quiet at the plate; his patience; maturing, etc.) are very definitely noticeable and so, so encouraging. Sniff, our little boy is growing up.

  7. Drew - May 6, 2015 at 11:07 PM

    Three players in major league history have reached 100 home runs at the age of 22 – Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro and Eddie Matthews.

    To join that list Harper needs to finish the year with 45 home runs.

    He’s on a pace for 44.6

  8. Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 11:37 PM

    People were joking around earlier about Bryce being 692 HRs or something like that behind Hank Aaron. Just saw a graphic on MLB Network showing that at age 22 and 202 days, which is how old Bryce is now, Aaron had played 394 games and hit 59 HRs. Bryce has played 386 games and hit 63.

    Of the top 5 HR hitters ever — Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and A-Rod (yeah, yeah, I know), only A-Rod had more HRs at the age Bryce is now — 64. Bonds had 16, Aaron 59, Ruth 8, and Mays 24

    • Tyler Babip - May 6, 2015 at 11:53 PM

      Whoa. Nice.

    • Drew - May 7, 2015 at 12:11 AM

      To be clear, I’m not joking in those countdown updates.

      I think we’re watching history unfold.

    • senators5 - May 7, 2015 at 12:20 AM

      Whoa, slow down. With the exception of Mays, none of those you listed would ever win a golden glove award. Harper is everything you want in a young player, but his one fallback, if you want to call it that, is that he hustles every fielding chance and probably over hustles when on base, which ultimately may have a serious impact on his homerun totals down the road due to injuries. Change his style, no way, but that style is also high risk, which may influence all of his totals down the road. While not a home run hitter, the one player who comes to my mind in the modern era for his hitting and hustle and staying on the field, of course, was Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose. Harper’s play reminds me very much of Rose in his prime, although they were totally different styles of hitters. I clearly hope that Harper will remain injury free, much like Rose did, and continue to hustle on defense and on the bases.

      • Section 222 - May 7, 2015 at 8:08 AM

        Actually, Bonds won 8 gold gloves, Aaron won 3, and A-Rod won 2. Mays won 12. But you’re totally right that Harper’s eventual career destination is very dependent on whether he manages to stay healthy. Can you imagine where he’d be already if he had played full seasons in 2013 and 2014?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 7, 2015 at 1:37 PM

        Sitting on 100.

  9. Drew - May 7, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    A number of factors can affect the arc of baseball history.

    Mays lost a year to military service. Teddy Ballgame lost five.

    Junior Griffey sustained a number of injuries. AROID cheated. Strawberry used other drugs.

    Mantle had debilitating leg injuries and drank too much.

    The exciting thing about Harper is that he is a young talent with the zeal to be great and has no interest in putting junk in his body.

    I’m encouraged at the protective steps he’s taking — sliding feet first into the right side wall, feeling with his right hand for the outfield fence, wearing the oven mitt, carrying sliding gloves to protect his fingers.

    If he can stay healthy it will be fun to see where he finishes in the pantheon.

    • natsdial8 - May 7, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      Nice summary Drew- 34 to me is a wonderful young man who is all
      about the baseball business . I do not think he is irresponsible , on the contrary I think he is very level headed and a joy to watch . He is a generational talent doing things the right way .

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 7, 2015 at 1:41 PM

      Mays lost almost two years, in fact. He only appeared in 34 games in 1952. He played nearly every game after that for the next ten or fifteen years.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 7, 2015 at 1:43 PM

        Not to mention all those years, and all those lost home runs, in the Stick.

  10. Guapo - May 7, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    It was on a foul ball, but the seed he launched from the RF corner on Ichiro’s hit may have been the most impressive play of the day for #34.

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