Among the varied and dazzling things Bryce Harper has done in the first eight games of his career, we can now add a steal of home — a stunning play that may have carried with it a message at the opposing pitcher, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels.
With two outs in the first inning, Hamels drilled Harper with a 93-mph fastball in the backside. After the game, Hamels admitted he hit Harper on purpose. There was no way to know at the time if it was intentional, but that is the place you hit a batter when you are trying to hit him. Up came former Phillie Jayson Werth, who singled to left. Harper bolted all the way from first to third, not even drawing a throw.
With Chad Tracy at the plate, Hamels become occupied by Werth at first base. He tried a pick-off throw, and Harper crept down the line. With the count 1-2, Hamels attempt to pick off Werth again. Harper bolted, hellbent for home plate.
First baseman Laynce Nix pivoted and threw home. Carlos Ruiz caught the ball at his chest and tagged Harper, too late. Harper’s hard-charging, feet-first slide beat the tag, and the Nationals took a 1-0 lead.
On his way to the dugout, Harper seemed to glance back at the pitcher’s mound. Quite a first nationally televised moment for the 19-year-old. As he trotted back to his position for the bottom of the inning, fans in left field screamed and clapped for him.