Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’

Eckstein on Harper: ‘At a loss for words’

Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein was at a loss for words when it came to describing left fielder Bryce Harper, who hit two home runs in a 2-0 victory over the Marlins.

During Spring Training, Harper, 20, was clearly the Nationals’ best player, hitting .478 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.

“You see what I see. It’s incredible,” Eckstein said. “This young man has really shown us what he is capable of doing. I think he has learned more about what he is capable of doing. He has learned about who he is on the baseball field, his demeanor, the way he carries himself, the way he interacts with his teammates. Today was just him expressing his talents. He is an amazing young man. I really don’t know how to put it into words.”

Eckstein declined to put numbers on Harper, but expects him to be a major player on the team in 2013.

“Bryce has put more pressure on himself than anybody else can put on him. He shows up every day with a passion to be the best not only what he could be, but the best that has ever played.”

Gonzalez’ gem powers Nationals to 3rd-straight win

By Mike Fiammetta / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — Eight innings into the first complete-game shutout of his career, Gio Gonzalez received a jolt of energy from one of the loudest Nationals Park crowds of the season.

Chants of “Let’s go Gio!” emanated from all corners of the stadium, keeping Gonzalez alive in the ninth despite surrendering a leadoff single and a walk two batters later. But then Shane Robinson came to the plate with two outs and launched a Gonzalez fastball — still hitting 94 MPH on the radar — high and harmlessly to Bryce Harper in center field. Harper hauled it in, rewarding the Nats and whatever the percentage of the crowd that stayed for the duration of the game despite a 10-0 blowout.

“It was kind of like having a Red Bull right there in the ninth,” Gonzalez said of the crowd’s chanting. “But when they were coming alive, I was just trying to do my best and try to pound that strike zone. Then I just came up with it, and [Kurt Suzuki] did a great job and made everything come out alive. The defense was unbelievable.”

Gonzalez was effusive with his praise afterward, lauding the Nats’ team defense and catcher Kurt Suzuki more than anything. He also thanked the 10 runs on 12 hits the offense supplied him, deadpanning, “10 runs is a pretty good cushion.”

The victory boosted his record to 17-7, tying him with R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto for the Major League-lead in wins. But perhaps more than anything, it continued the tremendous distance the Nats have placed between their current standing and the five-game losing streak earlier this week that muddied much of their strong play in August.

It all came with Gonzalez’ family in the stands, too, with his mother directly in his line of sight for the whole game.

“My Mom was right behind home plate, so imagine seeing [Suzuki’s] face, then the umpire and then my mom,” Gonzalez said. “So it was like, ‘Uh oh, can’t disappoint you, Ma.’ You can hear her every at-bat, ‘Swing! Do this!’ And I’m like, oh God, somebody keep her quiet over there.

“My dad disappeared, my dad was somewhere in the stands. Probably in left field or something. It was one of those things when you have your whole family here, you want to step it up and enjoy it.”

The Nats sure did enjoy it, and a lot of it was due to manager Davey Johnson, who kept Gonzalez in the game despite his reaching 119 pitches. With Major League rosters set to expand to 40 players tomorrow and significant alteration coming soon to the rotation once Stephen Strasburg is shut down, Johnson has been stretching his starters a little longer. Thursday night, Edwin Jackson tossed eight sterling shutout innings, giving up just four hits with 10 strikeouts and two walks while throwing 123 pitches.

“I had an 120-pitch limit on [Gonzalez] in a game like that,” Johnson said. “He took me right to the edge. If he walked [the last batter], I had [Ryan] Mattheus ready. But I might’ve let him go over my predetermined number. Otherwise, I’d have Gio hassling me all week. So, what a great effort.”

In actuality, the decision might not’ve been that difficult for Johnson. After Gonzalez said his manager would’ve had to “kill me first” before he’d leave the game, the 26-year-old lefty said Johnson teasingly pushed him back to the mound for the ninth inning.

Either way, Gonzalez was dealing from the start. Though he had only two strikeouts through three innings, Gonzalez got five of those nine outs on ground balls.

“His curveball was good early tonight,” Suzuki said. “Usually, it takes a little bit for him to get into a groove and get his curveball going. He was spotting his fastball, keeping it down in the zone, moving it in and out. You could just kind of see it from the beginning couple of innings.”

Gonzalez struck out four batters over the last three innings, enjoying 1-2-3 frames in the seventh and eighth after facing just four batters in the sixth. But when Robinson’s fly ball floated high toward center field on his 119th pitch, Gonzalez — satisfied but worn-out — just hoped the game would end.

“Catch it please, Bryce,” he said of his thoughts while the ball was in the air. “That’s all I had left in the tank. As soon as he caught it, I just stood there, closed my eyes for a second, or probably not. Then I gave Suzuki a big smile and a big handshake, a thank you. It’s a great win for us all.”

Harper heating up, benefiting from Werth leading off

By Mike Fiammetta / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — All of a sudden, Bryce Harper is heating up.

After seeing his batting average dip to .250 during the Nationals’ five-game road trip last week, the young center fielder is 5-for-14 (.357) with three home runs and six RBI over his last three games. Harper’s struggles had magnified his recent displays of emotion on the field, most recently his 9th-inning ejection on Wednesday after slamming his helmet into the ground following a double play.

Thursday night in the series-opening 8-1 win over the Cardinals, Harper hit his 15th home run of the season in the first inning of a 2-for-3 day at the plate. He nearly added another dinger in the third, sending Jon Jay leaping into the center-field wall before hauling in a deep fly ball.

“I’m just trying to stay within myself,” Harper said. “I’m just trying to use my hands and work up there, see some pitches and get the pitch I can drive.”

After batting .282 in the first half of the season, Harper has seen an increasing amount of outside and off-speed pitches aimed at forcing the rookie out of his comfort zone. Given his outbursts on the field, common thought suggested that Harper’s struggles at the plate were indeed making him over-extend himself at the plate.

“He’s all in all the time,” manager Davey Johnson said. “But he’s gotten a little calmer with his lower half. He can get real aggressive with his lower half, and he’s calmed down quite a bit. That’s when you get antsy, and that doesn’t help your swing.”

Harper has also benefited from the return of Jayson Werth, who has looked very comfortable batting in the leadoff spot. When batting first in the lineup this season, Werth is batting .350 with a .797 OPS (.350 on-base percentage, .447 slugging.) For the season, Werth is boasting a .825 OPS (.384 on-base percentage, .441 slugging).

“I really like guys that can get on base and also produce runs,” Johnson said of Werth and Harper atop his lineup. “Both can run, both basically make [opposing pitchers] throw it over. It’s great.”

While Harper denied seeing a change in how opposing pitchers have attacked him — both during his recent hot streak and with Werth batting in front of him — he did admit to benefiting from Werth’s patient, productive presence.

“I think having Werth hit in front of me just gets me going and he sets the tone,” Harper said. “It just calms down and just lets me go up and there just swing it.”

Game 130: Cardinals at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog as the Nationals return home from their eventful — to say the least — road trip for an 11-game homestand. As always, following along at Nationals.com.

After snapping their five-game losing streak last night in Miami, the Nationals begin a four-game set with the Cardinals tonight. Edwin Jackson faces the team he won a World Series ring with last year, which will send left-hander Jaime Garcia to face the Nats. Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the Nats on Friday, followed by Jordan Zimmermann — carrying his 2.63 ERA into a matchup against Kyle Lohse’s 2.64 — on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday.

Sticking to tonight, though, the Nats will trot out their normal lineup — with one exception. Jesus Flores will catch Jackson while Kurt Suzuki gets a day off. Flores last played in the series finale with the Phillies on Aug. 26, a 4-1 loss.

The timing is somewhat odd, considering Suzuki is as hot at the plate as he’s been since coming to the Nats. Suzuki has a three-game hitting streak in which he’s 4-for-10 with a home run, which Johnson credited to the work the veteran catcher has been putting in with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

“Eck’s been working with him good, he’s in a good place right now,” Johnson said. “I like the way he’s been swinging the last three days. He’s in a good spot.”

-Speaking of Strasburg (as always), manager Davey Johnson said the Nats’ young ace will make two or three more starts before he is shut down for the season. After his horrid outing Tuesday night against the Marlins — seven runs allowed (five earned) on nine hits in five innings — Strasburg has thrown 150 1/3 innings. Of course, Johnson’s comments fall pretty much in line with the 160-180 innings number that’s been thrown around all season.

-Bill will have more on Strasburg, Bryce Harper’s temper and Drew Storen’s hot streak in the notebook. In the meantime, here are tonight’s lineups:

Cardinals (71-59, 2nd NL Central)

  1. Jon Jay CF
  2. Carlos Beltran RF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Allen Craig 1B
  5. Yadier Molina C
  6. David Freese 3B
  7. Skip Schumaker 2B
  8. Rafael Furcal SS
  9. Jaime Garcia LHP

Nationals (78-51, 1st NL East)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Michael Morse LF
  5. Adam LaRoche 1B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Jesus Flores C
  9. Edwin Jackson RHP

Nats’ Harper has temper tantrum

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had a temper tantrum during Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Phillies. Harper was upset after being taken out in a double switch in the sixth inning.

Manager Davey Johnson wanted bench coach Randy Knorr to tell Harper right away that he was being taken out of the game. But before Knorr could do anything, Harper was seen “destroying helmets on the runway,” according to Johnson.

“I said, ‘Randy, will you get to him. Please get to him.’” Johnson said. “I really didn’t have a choice. I didn’t care if it was Babe Ruth.”

Harper, who is never happy when he is not playing, is 18-for-85 [.212] with three home runs and eight RBIs during the month of August.

Game 114: Nationals at D-backs

Adam Berry here, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

-Nats manager Davey Johnson told us last night that Bryce Harper would be out of tonight’s lineup, and indeed he has the day off. Johnson wanted to get Tyler Moore a start against Arizona lefty Wade Miley, so the outfield will be Moore-Werth-Morse tonight. Harper will be back in the lineup Sunday.

-Werth is leading off tonight. He’s batting .400/.500/.500 in nine games since coming off the disabled list, and the Nats haven’t lost a game he’s played in. His overall batting line this season is .305/.403/.453, and Johnson said the biggest change in his approach is that he’s willing to use every part of the field after trying too hard to always go to the opposite field last season.

“He’s attacking the ball. He’s much more of a threat. I like his swing better this year. Everything about him has been great,” Johnson said. “Everybody in the lineup now is swinging like I know they’re capable of doing. That’s why it’s fun to watch this team now. We’ve got a chance to score some runs.”

-In other news, Ian Desmond was scheduled to take his first swings in the cage since hitting the DL with a torn left oblique. He’s still scheduled to come back in late August or early September. Johnson wants the Nats’ medical staff to play it as safe as possible with Desmond, but he’s certainly eager to have him back in the lineup.

“When that man’s ready, I want him back,” Johnson said. “Arguably he’s been the most dynamic player this year.”

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (70-43)
Jayson Werth CF
Danny Espinosa SS
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Tyler Moore LF
Jesus Flores C
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Edwin Jackson RHP

D-backs (57-56)
Stephen Drew SS
Aaron Hill 2B
Jason Kubel LF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Justin Upton RF
Miguel Montero C
Chris Johnson 3B
Gerardo Parra CF
Wade Miley LHP

Game 113: Nationals at D-backs

Adam Berry here, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

-It’s 112 degrees in Phoenix right now, but the good news is it only feels like 108.

(OK, the actual good news is that the roof is closed here at Chase Field.)

-In case you missed the news earlier, the Nationals no longer own the longest hitting streak in the Majors. Michael Morse started the day on an 18-game streak, but the league ruled Friday afternoon that the single he recorded on Aug. 2 against the Phillies was actually an error by Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

So instead of an 18-gamer, Morse entered Friday’s series opener against Arizona with a seven-game hitting streak. It’s no longer the longest such streak of his career, either. That’s back to 11 games, a mark he set last year.

-In other news, Bryce Harper is back in the lineup after sitting out Thursday’s series finale in Houston. You can read all about what he had to say yesterday here.

Here are the full lineups for tonight…

Nationals (69-43)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Stephen Strasburg RHP

D-backs (57-55)
Stephen Drew SS
Aaron Hill 2B
Jason Kubel LF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Justin Upton RF
Miguel Montero C
Chris Johnson 3B
Gerardo Parra CF
Trevor Cahill RHP

Game 112: Nationals at Astros

Adam Berry here, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

Bryce Harper had a rough game Wednesday, and as manager Davey Johnson mentioned afterward, he’s out of the starting lineup today. He went 0-for-3 with two walks and struck out looking twice, showing some pretty obvious frustration after both calls by home-plate ump Angel Hernandez.

He’s batting .176/.276/.265 since the All-Star break, and Johnson decided it was time to give him a day off. After last night’s game, Johnson seemed more disappointed with Harper’s overthrow to third base as the Astros threatened in the ninth inning. Fortunately for the Nats, Gio Gonzalez did his job backing up Ryan Zimmerman and finished the game.

“That’s just a rookie mistake. I think maybe he took his bat with him into the outfield,” Johnson said last night. “You can’t allow the winning run to go to second. That’s 101 baseball. He knows it. He was just being a little overly aggressive … but that’s not a mistake you want to be making when you’re in a pennant race.”

Harper declined to comment last night, but here’s what Johnson had to say about his at-bats, particularly the two strikeouts. Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net, you can check out the strike zone plots of Harper’s at-bats in the fourth inning and sixth inning.

“There were some questionable pitches, but he’s pressing a little bit,” Johnson said. “We put him in some situations that he likes to be in, and he didn’t have good ABs, so we’ll let him step back a little bit.”

Check out the notebook on Nationals.com a little later for more on Harper.

For now, the series finale lineup against Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell…

Nationals (68-43)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Roger Bernadina CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Jordan Zimmermann RHP

-Adam Berry

Q&A with Bryce Harper

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been in the big leagues a little over three months and played in an All-Star game and leads all National League rookies in runs scored with 58.

Harper, 19, now finds himself in a slump, going 28-for-124 [.226] in his last 31 games. MLB.com caught up with Harper to talk about his brief time in the big leagues.

MLB.com: You have been in the big leagues for over three months. What has the experience been like for you?

Harper: It has been a lot of fun. I just try to have fun every day and enjoy myself with this team.

MLB.com: You guys have been winning big time. Has that been a surprise to you?

Harper: I think so. We have a great team and organization. We have a great manager in Davey Johnson. Everybody around him has been doing a great job. It leads into us wanting to win and us wanting to win every single day for him, this organization, this town, this city. We have that attitude to win. That’s what we want to do.

MLB.com: How do you think you have done in the big leagues so far?

Harper: For the first year, I think I’ve done pretty well, but I’m never satisfied with the things I’ve done. You can always get better every day — get better in the outfielder, hitting, throwing, catching and everything like that. That’s the game of baseball. You can learn something new every day — mentally, physically and that’s what I try to do.

MLB.com: What do you need to do to get better?

Harper: Everything. Trying to go out there and have good at-bats. I want to see a lot of pitches, be as patient as I can and work on the mental side of baseball — not get too high, not get too low. I want to try and stay as even keel as I can. Just worry about everything I can control. That’s hustle, grind it out every day and play hard.

MLB.com: Is it more mental in the big leagues than you ever experienced in the past?

Harper: I guess so. I think you try to have fun and try to do the best that you can and not worry about things around you. …. First year in the big leagues, the biggest thing is, I try to enjoy myself, take it all in, hustle as best as you can that first year.

MLB.com: After missing more than three months of action because of a wrist injury, Jayson Werth is back on the team. You said many times that he was your mentor. How good is it to have him back?

Harper: It’s a lot of fun to have him back in the clubhouse and on the field. He is captain on this team. He is one of the guys you try to emulate and look after. You look at things that he does and work off that.

MLB.com: You have been in a slump lately. What are you doing to make things better at the plate?

Harper: I don’t think I’m in a slump. You just go there and have good ABs and not worry about anything else. We are winning. That’s the biggest thing. I’m not too worried about my numbers or anything like that. I could care less really. As long as we are winning, getting hits in good situations — try to get that runner from third or Ryan Zimmerman or somebody else driving them in — that’s the biggest thing.

MLB.com: What is the biggest thing you have to adjust to since you have in the big leagues?

Harper: Pitchers try to pitch me in different ways. I’m trying to learn what they are trying to do. I really try to get that one pitch in that one zone that I can drive. I’m trying to stay within myself, believe that I can do it and not worry about anything around me.

– Bill Ladson

Harper not in lineup because of back issues

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was not in Sunday’s lineup against the Red Sox because of lower back tightness — “mostly muscular” — according to manager Davey Johnson.

The injury is not considered serious and there isn’t any talk about Harper getting an MRI. Johnson said Harper most likely will be in the lineup on Monday against the Blue Jays.

Harper, 19, has had back issues for at least four days. Johnson would have never known about the injury if not for bench coach Randy Knorr and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz telling Johnson about Harper’s problem.

Later in the morning, Harper didn’t look like he was injured. He was seen jogging in left field at Fenway Park. Later in the day, he was seen hitting in the batting cage.

“Bryce hasn’t said anything to me, but we are just being on the safe side.” Johnson said. “Normally, I don’t have coaches and trainers saying that about players. … Anybody that has a little something going on, I have to be on the safe side. I give them a day.”

Harper’s back problems first surfaced on Thursday against the Mets. With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Mets third baseman David Wright hit the ball to right field. Harper went after the ball, dove and let the ball go by him for a triple. After throwing the ball to the cutoff man, Harper fell to the ground in pain.

After the game, Harper said he was OK, that it wasn’t a big deal. Harper most likely will be available to pinch hit against the Red Sox.

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