In the middle of the sixth inning today, Manager Davey Johnson pulled Bryce Harper as part of a double-switch. Harper had no injury, and Johnson thought Harper took three good at-bats against Cliff Lee even as he went 0 for 3.
Johnson has said Harper may start to rest against some left-handers, but this move had nothing to do with that. Johnson believed he had no choice, another symptom of Ian Desmond’s strained hamstring and Michael Morse’s bruised right hand. With those two unavailable, Johnson knew he would he would pitch Tom Gorzelanny two innings and not exhaust a pinch-hitter. Harper was the last outfielder to make an out in the top of the sixth, and so Johnson needed his spot for Roger Bernadina, who had pinch-hit for Jordan Zimmermann.
Johnson’s reasonable motivations for pulling Harper did not making it any easier on the 19-year-old.
“I told [bench coach] Randy [Knorr], ‘Tell the kid, I have one player left and I’m double switching with him,’ so he doesn’t kill himself down there,” Johnson said. “He didn’t get to him right away. [Harper] was destroying helmets in the runway. So I said, ‘Randy, will you get to him? Please get to him.’ But I really had no choice. I didn’t care if it was Babe Ruth. I had one player left and I have to have as many batters to stay in the game as possible.”
As the Nationals’ sputtered offense to five runs in three games over the weekend, Harper went 3 for 11 with two doubles. He did not draw any walks, which continued an impatient trend – in his last 54 plate appearances, Harper has one walk and 14 strikeouts. It was still a pretty good series for Harper, who also made a tremendous sliding catch in center field today.
Aside from the double-switch, Johnson found another way to maximize his depleted bench. With one out in the eighth inning and a man on base, Johnson sent Desmond to the plate to pinch-hit against left-hander Jeremy Horst. Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel summoned right-hander Josh Lindblom, just as Johnson hoped.
Johnson wanted no part of Desmond playing at all. He counted on Manuel bringing in Lindblom so he could pull back Desmond and send Chad Tracy, his best pinch-hitter, to the plate against a right-hander. The plan worked until Tracy mustered only a hard groundout to shortstop.