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Harper continues amazing run with walk-off win

May 9, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT

May 9, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) wipes chocolate syrup off his face that was squirted on him by starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) (not pictured) after his walk off home run against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeat Atlanta Braves 8-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After hitting five home runs in two games to lead the Nationals to victories, Bryce Harper was already making history on a daily basis and rocketing souvenirs all over the ballpark in the process. He was already leading the surging Nationals and rounding into form as one of the best players in baseball.

So, on Saturday evening, as the Nationals watched a three-run lead vanish in the eighth inning, he couldn’t possibly top himself with an encore performance, could he?

Of course he can, because he’s Bryce Harper and special moments are quickly becoming the new normal for the prodigious 22-year-old star.

Harper launched a walk-off homer over the Geico sign in center field to hand the Nationals a 8-6 win and their first above-.500 record of the 2015 season. Harper knew the ball was gone right off the bat and is now the fourth youngest player ever to have three walk-off homers in their career. The man he passed? Ryan Zimmerman.

Only former Nationals manager Frank Robinson – who ironically was inducted into the Nats’ ring of honor prior to the game – had more before the age of 23.

“Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone,” Harper said. “No disrespect to that other guy, I just knew it was gone. Got around the bases, pointed to right field because my fans out there. Love them, so had to point out there.”

‘That other guy’ was Braves reliever Cody Martin who hung a slider to Harper in a 1-0 count. Harper rounded the bases quickly and was met with a shower of chocolate sauce by pitcher Max Scherzer, a new and very messy tradition started by the ace.

“I think Scherzer started a new thing with the chocolate sauce, so I was a little flustered during my [postgame] interview, I’m a little better now. So that’s a lot of fun now,” he said.

Harper also had his jersey ripped open by left fielder Jayson Werth.

“All the buttons are ripped. He ripped the whole thing,” Harper said. “Hopefully they can fix that tonight so I can wear it tomorrow.”

Harper also had a single and a walk, his league-best 27th in 31 games this year. He now sports an OPS of 1.084. He is becoming a terror for opposing pitchers, a player who can take a pitch just out of the zone or capitalize on a mistake and send it 450 feet into the oblivion.

He’s also playing excellent defense in right field. On Saturday, Harper robbed Nick Markakis of a double with a leaping, over-the-shoulder grab for the third out of the seventh inning. The play saved a run, as Pedro Ciriaco was standing on second.

Harper made the amazing grab, but afterwards admitted it wasn’t as easy as smooth as he made it look.

“I was like a baby giraffe trying to get his legs underneath him. Really. I was flustered trying to get that ball. Being able to get that ball over my head, was definitely huge. I just put [my glove] up and caught the ball,” he said.

Harper takes pride in all areas of his game and is enjoying his new position in right field. He has his eyes set on becoming the best player at his position.

“I’m trying not only to be good offensively at the plate, but trying to be the best right fielder in the game. Plain and simple. I want to be the best right fielder in this game,” he said.

After leading the Nationals to yet another victory, Harper has earned the admiration of his teammates and manager.

“It’s awesome. it’s just so fun to watch,” Ian Desmond said. “The work that he puts in and the amount of, I guess, I don’t want to say wisdom he has for a young guy, but he just knows himself. He just knows what he needs to do on a daily basis. And it’s really been kind of fun to watch him mature in the way that he is now.”

When asked if Harper was ‘finally’ coming around, Matt Williams balked at the concept.

“I don’t know if it’s ‘finally,’ he’s still 22. That’s the perception a little bit, right? [People think] ‘finally’. He’s 22 years old, and just 22. I think he’s starting to learn himself. He’s learning how to play within himself. He’s learning how to take what’s given to him. He’s taken to right field very well. He’s taken to the middle of the order very well. We certainly don’t expect him to hit a home run every day, but he can get in streaks like that where he’s seeing the ball very well and putting the head on it.”

A forecast of greatness may have preceded Harper as the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, but nobody expects more of Bryce Harper than the man himself.

“That’s the way I need to play. Plain and simple. That’s why the Natioanls drafted me, that’s the way I need to play. That’s the way I need to be. I need to stay in the lineup and keep having fun,” he said.

  1. Another_Sam - May 9, 2015 at 9:06 PM

    Thanks, CH. I hope his defense gets plenty of ink too.

  2. soonernat - May 9, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    Folks….pay attention to young Mr. Harper. I believe we are watching the emergence of someone special. Not that others haven’t talked about him for years, but he now seems to be fulfilling his promise. He is still the 4th youngest player in the Majors- with Kris Bryant and Joc Peterson both older – and has yet to face a pitcher younger than himself – and has matured significantly over the past few years.

    His appreciation for the history of the game tells me a lot. He understands the “unwritten” rules of the game and appears to play baseball the “right” way. So sit back and watch him over the next 10 years or so and appreciate the fact that we are watching this generation’s Mantle or Mays emerge…along with Mike Trout….because I think he is going to be that good!!

    • laddieblahblah - May 10, 2015 at 6:13 AM

      The managers, coaches and pitchers can circle his name all they want. He is still going to beat them.

  3. dryw4nats - May 9, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    By all means, Bryce, keep having fun. It sure does seem to be working for you!

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - May 9, 2015 at 9:34 PM

    “That’s the way I need to play. Plain and simple. That’s why the Natioanls drafted me, that’s the way I need to play that’s the way I need to be. I need to stay in the lineup and keep having fun,” he said.

    Did Bryce really call his team the Natioanls? I guess that’s better than Natinals.

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - May 9, 2015 at 9:47 PM

    It was a slider that Bryce hit for the HR and it was below the zone and I believe out of the 8 sliders he’s hit for HRs in his career that this particular HR was the 1st he has hit below the zone. He barreled it up well which gave it the lift like a golfer gets.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 9, 2015 at 9:56 PM

      Yep, that is the first HR that Bryce has ever hit below the zone on a slider and strangely the only HR on a slider in the middle of the plate.

    • letswin3 - May 9, 2015 at 10:09 PM

      Yeah, he looked more like a “typical” left-handed hitter there. By that I mean that most of them seem to like the low strike, or even inside a little. Bryce, on the other hand, has never looked like a typical left-hander to me. But he sure caught that one flush.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 9, 2015 at 10:16 PM

        It was a pitcher’s chase pitch as 1st base was occupied and a 1-0 count and Martin was looking for a swing & miss. I’m just blown away.

        Outside of Vlad Guerrero and Hunter Pence, who else can hit that pitch out?

      • nats1924 - May 10, 2015 at 8:28 AM

        Barry Bonds

    • laddieblahblah - May 10, 2015 at 6:15 AM

      I noticed that, too. He has hit ’em high, over the outside half, down the middle, up and in, and now right off his shoe tops, below the zone. What will he do if they ever give him anything good to hit?

  6. Sonny G 10 - May 9, 2015 at 9:52 PM

    Bryce Harper is just awesome. I’m really looking forward to getting home after this long camping trip I’m on, so I can watch all the Nats games. Thanks to Eric for pointing out “At Bat” has audio of the games, so I’ve been enjoying that very much. I did download an archive of Friday’s game on MLB.TV but that used up a hugh chunk of my data allotment for May. It was fun to watch though. Keep the boys winning fellow NI’ers.

    • Eric - May 10, 2015 at 2:05 AM

      Awesome Sonny! Glad you’re able to enjoy the games. I’m jealous of the camping trip!

  7. therealjohnc - May 9, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    It wasn’t just the Markakis catch – Harper made two other very good plays in RF, one on a laser into the gap that I was sure was a double off the bat but Harper got a great jump and took a great route to run it down. There was also a sliding catch in short right field.

  8. Section 222 - May 9, 2015 at 10:47 PM

    Hate to mention this, but it sure looks like Bryce is chewing. I sure hope he kicks that habit.

    • Bruxtun - May 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM

      Yeah Deuces, noticed that too, it’s looked that way for a few weeks now. I’m a former smoker, and when you see people get on tobacco you just want to grab them and tell em not to even start, maybe save them from even going down that path. But of course people go their own way. Hopefully he can kick it, agreed.

    • David Proctor - May 10, 2015 at 12:03 AM

      He definitely is. Has been for a while now. It’s unfortunate.

    • Eric - May 10, 2015 at 2:15 AM

      I noticed that a few weeks ago…

      But then more recently I’ve noticed him occassionally sticking some weird, pink, pad-looking thing out of his mouth. It almost looks like it might be a mouth guard or something. Got me to wondering if he had some kind of ortho procedure and the bulge is protective gear? I dunno.

      If it is dip, agree 1000% that whenever you hear of someone taking up tobacco you just want to infuse into their mindset all the years of wishing you’d never even tried it. I’m literally jealous of people who tell me they’ve never tried tobacco even once. It’s probably the only thing I wish I’d never done.

      • Guapo - May 10, 2015 at 8:02 AM

        Neither is an issue.

        The pink pad looking thing is exactly that. It’s a pad that he wears while batting that reduces sting on contact. They’ve been around for decades. There is a hole in one end that goes over his thumb and the pad sits between his hand at the bat. It is gross though that he chews on it.

        Harper likely isn’t chewing. He’s Mormon and that’s against the rules. Wadded bubble gum or something else gross is likely the substance.

    • ArVAFan - May 10, 2015 at 7:23 AM

      He’s Mormon–tobacco use is a big no-no. If he really is chewing, that’s a big deal.

    • Candide - May 10, 2015 at 7:25 AM

      Isn’t tobacco a no-no for Mormons?

      • Candide - May 10, 2015 at 7:27 AM

        Looks like I owe you a drink, ArVAFan.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:08 AM

        Bryce’s brother was drinking beer clearly in the celebration after Potomac won the Mills Cup. It surprised many people but he’s over 21 and legal.

        Some people follow devoutly to every tenet of their religion and some loosely do it. Why do people keep bringing up their religion and further to the point as anyone witnessed Bryce using tobacco items. Yes, there seems to be something in his mouth, maybe its a mouth guard.

      • Candide - May 10, 2015 at 9:13 AM

        Fair point, but I would have thought Bryce would be a bit of a stickler about tobacco, considering his “clown question” reply to the suggestion he might want a celebratory beer.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:20 AM

        I hope he isn’t dipping. Very few players and coaches on the Nats do it. Desi does and McCatty does. Ramos has something in his mouth too but I never see him spitting.

      • Candide - May 10, 2015 at 9:15 AM

        And I’m not so concerned about how closely he follows the tenets of his religion as I am about his getting mouth cancer. Chemotherapy is no fun, take it from me.

    • Just. Dave - May 10, 2015 at 8:12 AM

      So what?

      In other big news, Wilson likes sugary soda and Span likes pork chops.

      • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 10:48 AM

        It was just a question Just.Dave. But do you really think that chewing tobacco is no more concerning than liking sugary drinks or pork chops? What are you, Rip Van Winkle?

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 10, 2015 at 9:12 AM

      Lots of players use a mouthpiece when they’re at bat. It would appear that Harper does, and when he reaches base he spits it out. If you think he’s chewing tobacco during games, isn’t there an MLB rule against that? You don’t see players with the can in their back pants pocket any more, like you used to. Technically, I don’t think they’re even supposed to have it in the dugout. When Davey was manager, there would be the occasional camera shot of him in the dugout putting tobacco in his mouth, and the camera would quickly move on just as soon as they realized what they had just shot.

      But there’s also a big container of bubble gum in the dugout, plus various kinds of seeds. Those things need to be chewed and can make a bulge in the jaw when they are.

      Also, as of last season both Strasburg and Desi were still chewing (remember Desi’s much-publicized decision to quit at the start of the season that many speculated contributed to his error woes?) but if you went by what you saw watching them on the field or in the dugout you never would have known.

    • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Fascinating difference of opinion on this question. I agree that the fact that he’s a Mormon makes it surprising, but clearly not impossible. I wondered toox whether it was some kind of mouth guard as he was rounding the bases, but then he still was doing odd things with his mouth in the dugout afterward so that seemed an unlikely explanation. I suppose we’ll find out at some point, but it’s interesting how sure some people are about the answer to this question.

  9. infideljack - May 9, 2015 at 10:53 PM

    The defensive harper is nearly as amazing as the offensive Harper. He is only 22 but he is in his 4th year in the majors. In order to be a complete player (5 tools) he is till working on baserunning. Imagine what happens whe he walks and then steals 2nd consistently.

    • infideljack - May 9, 2015 at 10:54 PM

      Should Harper be hitting third?

      • Section 222 - May 9, 2015 at 11:04 PM

        I suppose there’s a case to be made for that. But if he does, then Zim is batting 4th and Werth 5th . That doesn’t seem like an optimum lineup to me. Maybe when Rendon comes back?

      • David Proctor - May 10, 2015 at 12:05 AM

        2nd and 4th are the two most important lineup positions. I hope (and expect) Rendon slots into the two hole and Harper the four hole. Werth can hit third and Zim five, maybe swap them depending on how they’re hitting. Werth has looked better at the plate these last two games. Zim has looked pretty lost until the homer today. Hope that’s a sign of things to come, because soon pitchers are going to pitch around Harper more than they already are. Zim needs to make them pay. He did today.

      • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 12:19 AM

        Yeah, I agree with you DP. Rendon 2nd, Harp 4th. Hard to believe, but a 22 year old and a 3rd year player are the best hitters on this team. Zim, Werth, Desi, Span — they’re all supporting players. When Harp and TTB are both in the lineup the Nats are going to do some damage, as Harp would say.

      • sjm308 - May 10, 2015 at 7:53 AM

        We talked about that today as well. We came up with leaving Escobar hitting 2nd, Rendon 3rd, Harper 4th and Zimm or Werth to follow. Escobar rarely strikes out, seems to put the ball in play a bunch and has decent speed.
        Just a thought.

  10. veejh - May 10, 2015 at 12:25 AM

    Not a big fan of the way MW managed that game. Fister in too long. Kept Barrett in too long. Went with the wrong matchup going with Roark. Bryce saved his azz.

    I still love the win, but managing like that during a 162 game season will end up losing a few more games than winning them.

    • Bruxtun - May 10, 2015 at 12:35 AM

      I think Williams managed the bench players perfectly though. Should have plated a run if not for Taylor’s subpar (in my opinion) base running.

      Regarding the pen, I think Barrett had the ability to get out of that one. If he gets the out instead of the walk, it’s a different story. Roark can match up with anyone, being a starter at heart. You’re always on the razor’s edge when with bullpen management.

      • infideljack - May 10, 2015 at 1:00 AM

        Desi needs to bat 8th, move Espinosa to 6th and catchers to 7th.

      • sjm308 - May 10, 2015 at 7:55 AM

        We were wondering why he didn’t pinch hit Ramos instead of Uggla. Ramos was obviously coming into the game to catch and to get him an AB seemed the right thing to do. Of course Uggla delivered but I think he wasted using a guy who was hot over a guy who was struggling.

      • natsdial8 - May 10, 2015 at 8:34 AM

        Your opinion is righ on Brux- Micheal is a sub par baserunner and then some. He looks like he has no instincts . He rounded third too wide , didnt’t see and adjust to the catcher and slid poorly .

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:38 AM

        “natsdial8 – May 10, 2015 at 8:34 AM
        Your opinion is righ on Brux- Micheal is a sub par baserunner and then some. He looks like he has no instincts . He rounded third too wide , didnt’t see and adjust to the catcher and slid poorly”

        I owe you one as I commented below on the slide which wasn’t great. After seeing the replay, he definitely slid poorly and not sure if he was directed by the on-deck batter but Taylor went down the center of the plate instead of the top of the plate as you have to go away from the catcher.

      • natsdial8 - May 10, 2015 at 11:02 AM

        What bothers me Ghost is how the coaching seems to be ineffective with Michael . Get him in a film room or run him around the bases like in Little League:) I don’t even like his leads off 1st base he is leaning toward second . The kid has so much talent they have to get him to learn the basics.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 10, 2015 at 1:15 AM

      Unless you factor in what, if anything, all these young pitchers are learning from these failures. Maybe nothing, probably something, who knows when it’ll pay off, but maybe.

  11. thelatencn - May 10, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    I’m worried about Harper”s declining production. Wednesday he hit three home runs, Friday only two. Yesterday he barely managed one, on the very last at bat of the game. If this trend continues, Matt Williams should defnitely be fired.

    • ArVAFan - May 10, 2015 at 7:24 AM


    • Guapo - May 10, 2015 at 8:03 AM

      well done, sir, well done.

  12. laddieblahblah - May 10, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    In all the excitement over Harper, note that the bench went a cool 5 for 9 yesterday, including Lobaton’s 2-run HR, Danny’s ringing double, and the much-maligned Dan Uggla’s clutch single in the bottom of the 8th that appeared it was going to produce the leading run, going into the 9th.

    Can we finally stop talking about how “bad’ the Nats bench is? OK, the pinch-runner didn’t work out, but Lobaton would not even have been sent, so MAT was the best option MW had. Taylor will learn from that, and get better.

    • sjm308 - May 10, 2015 at 7:57 AM

      Do you think that was Taylor’s fault? I thought Henley was waiving him home the entire time and we all felt he should have put the stop sign up. I could be wrong because my focus was on the runner and the throw.

      • natsdial8 - May 10, 2015 at 8:36 AM

        Michael is a very bad baserunner he should have scored .

      • Candide - May 10, 2015 at 9:01 AM

        Everyone during near me thought it was an awful send. Hold MAT at third and you have runners on the corners, one out and top of the order coming up. We ended up with two out and man on second.

        Of course, the baseball gods set it up that way because they love 9th inning drama, and we are mere pawns in their cosmic schemes.

      • therealjohnc - May 10, 2015 at 12:51 PM

        FWIW I was OK with the send. The LF doesn’t generally have a great arm, and even though he made a great throw and Taylor slid straight in it was still a bang/bang play. If Taylor keeps his front foot down and drags it across the plate he may well have been safe even with all that. And the throw to the plate guarantees that the batter ends up on second base in scoring position regardless of what happens. If MAT is safe, you have an excellent chance to add an insurance run. Even when he was out, the Nats still had the go-ahead run in scoring position.

        Fact: if Henley holds MAT there and Span hits into his second GIDP of the game, then today’s thread would contain a lot of criticism, of Henley for not sending the runner. Likely from some of the same people who are criticizing the send. It’s an occupational hazard.

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 10, 2015 at 8:46 AM

      You can’t really count Danny Espinosa as part of the bench on days he starts the game. Which is most days these days. Similarly, Lobaton wasn’t a bench player yesterday. Ramos was.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:17 AM

      Great point Laddie. The role players did great and once again Uggla comes through, imagine that!

      On Taylor’s running there was no replay to show if he hesitated at 2nd base and FP noted a wide turn which I didn’t really see but what I saw was during his slide he for some reason before reaching the plate got his lead foot cleat down in the dirt which slowed him up a split second then didn’t get his foot down when he was at the plate. It was unfortunate.

      As deep as that ball was hit by Uggla I thought it was a good send but once again Taylor was not as far as you would think he would be at the time the fielder got to the ball. It required a strong throw on target and the tag.

      I don’t get it.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 10, 2015 at 10:13 AM

        Taylor made a wide turn at third, and agree about his cleat in the dirt, but he also began his slide early, then had his foot up in the air instead of down. I thought it was a good send because you have a fast guy running, and it would take a good throw and play by the catcher to get him. The throw in was real good, the tag by the catcher was just good enough, but if Taylor has a better turn at 3rd, and a better slide at the plate, he scores, regardless of what the defense did. Taylor is making instinctive errors on the basepaths that at 24 years old he shouldn’t be making. He got away with a lot more in Harrisburg, but up here with the big boys you have guys that make the plays more often, leaving little room for not doing the little things properly.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:19 AM

        You bring up all parts of the process in a split second bang-bang play that cost him but I’ve seen wider turns and what caught me is what we didn’t see in a secondary lead and any hesitation at contact. His instincts take a split second longer to process in the field on defense and on the basepaths sometimes. His steal was good as you saw he stole it off of the pitcher but if you watch the replay you see where the catcher is set up behind the plate and Taylor didn’t slide up the line towards the top of the plate. Yes, he slid to early, dug his cleat in early and then didn’t get his front cleat down to touch the plate as it was clearly over the plate.

        Any one of the those gaffes could have cost the Nats a run and all of them in total certainly did.

      • ITGSOT - May 10, 2015 at 10:44 AM

        Sounds like Taylor didn’t get a good read of the batted ball so he lingered at second too long. A smart baserunner might have gotten a better read and been further around when the throw was made. There’s a lot more to being a good baserunner than speed. You can’t teach speed, but can you teach instinct and smarts?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:53 AM

        It’s why Werth is such a good baserunner because of his instincts. I think you can marginally improve instincts with a player over time.

        In split second plays, I think Joe Seamhead gave 4 or 5 things that went wrong and it didn’t include the secondary lead or any hesitation at 2nd base since we didn’t see video of that.

        I also think it was a good send.

  13. natsfan1a - May 10, 2015 at 6:28 AM

    One-will-suffice Harper to the rescue. Niiice.

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    MLB Network put together a nice compilation of Bryce’s blasts!

    Another crazy stat, Bryce is 3 HRs and 6 RBIs away from exceeding those totals from his ENTIRE season last year.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:24 AM

      the Nats game was the Game of the Week for FOX.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:55 AM

        Here’s the postgame video with Ken Rosenthal where Bryce gets the CHOC-OFF!!!!

      • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        Outstanding! Thanks for posting the video. Great for the country to see that side of Bryce.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:41 AM

        Thinking the same that Bryce not only shined on the national stage with the bat but also the glove and then gave a great postgame interview and they got to see him on Wednesday in that day game on MLB Network too.

      • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 10:49 AM

        I thought it was interesting that Scherzer told Bryce to watch out for the chocolate if he hit a walkoff. I wonder if he said that to Esco or Werth who preceded Bryce at the plate.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 11:07 AM

        The Choc-Off celebration orchestrated by Count Walkula is certainly original and fun.

  15. Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    “sjm308 – May 10, 2015 at 7:55 AM
    We were wondering why he didn’t pinch hit Ramos instead of Uggla. Ramos was obviously coming into the game to catch and to get him an AB seemed the right thing to do. Of course Uggla delivered but I think he wasted using a guy who was hot over a guy who was struggling.”

    Uggla is 7 for his last 20. While Ramos has been hotter overall, I think MW figured they would pitch to Uggla and could pitch around Ramos with 1st base open and putting the slower Ramos on base.

  16. dcwesternmike - May 10, 2015 at 11:53 AM

    Werth moved like an old man both in the ball hit in front of him and the one hit over his head.





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