After postgame comments in which he reportedly criticized Bryce Harper’s positioning in right field, Rafael Soriano insisted he isn’t upset with Harper for a play in the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 4-2 10-inning loss to the Giants. With two outs and a runner on first, Harper chased down a Gregor Blanco hit in the ninth inning but pulled up and flinched as it near him, fearing the right field wall was closer than it was. The ball fell in for an RBI triple and tied the game, and Soriano blew the save.
The two players talked for several minutes in a private room on Wednesday morning before the series finale in San Francisco.
“He was voicing some frustrations a lot of us feel,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “Did he go too far? Maybe.” Johnson added that the situation is “not a big deal.”
Following the conversation between the two players, Soriano said, “we’re good.” Added Harper: “I was playing where I was supposed to be. I have nothing to say about it.”
According to USA Today, Soriano questioned where Harper was playing in right on the play in Spanish and in terms stronger than his comments to beat reporters following the frustrating loss: “It may not have been a catch-able ball, but if we’re positioned the right way, there might have been a different outcome. With two outs, I could tell my four-year-old son, ‘You know where you need to play,’ and he would go to the right spot to make the play. It’s not an excuse, and I’m not speaking badly about anybody, but I think that’s how you play the game.”
Soriano told the Post in a telephone interview from San Francisco on Wednesday morning that he thought he was talking casually with the USA Today reporter off the record after they had talked on the record about the game, a normal occurrence when players speak with reporters. He said he saw and heard on Wednesday morning what was published.
“I tried to do my job and I didn’t do it,” Soriano said in Spanish. “(The play) wasn’t an error. He was in the position and I threw the pitch I shouldn’t have. And that’s what happened. And after we finished talking, I made the mistake of saying that to [the reporter]. And he put it in there with what I said.”
Soriano said he thought that the outfield defense was playing the “no doubles” alignment but wasn’t sure. He thought Harper could catch it. “I’m not trying to blame him for that,” he said.
Soriano said he didn’t perform as he should have. With two outs, he tossed a 1-2 slider to Blanco that caught too much of the plate. “I could make better pitches in the ninth,” he said.
Harper put the blame solely on his shoulders after the loss, suggesting that his painful collision with the right field wall in Los Angeles last week was in his mind.
“I don’t want to hit the frickin’ wall full-on,” Harper said. “Of course that crosses your mind after you jam into a wall. It doesn’t really feel very good. It [stinks] that I couldn’t make the play. I totally put that loss on me.”
Johnson was sympathetic with Harper’s aversion to another collision with the outfield wall. “I would be afraid, too. He’s only human.” Soriano agreed.
“I understand that he’s been hurt and it’s hard and he’s young,” Soriano said. “He’s just been playing. I’ll try next time to be better and have a better game.”
Soriano said he didn’t talk with Harper following the loss because as a newer teammate, he isn’t sure how to approach everyone yet. The 33-year-old closer acquired in the offseason is known as a reserved teammate but has ingrained himself well in the Nationals clubhouse.
“I don’t want him to think that I’m blaming him,” Soriano said. “I’m not like that … With that kid, I have no problem with him. Things happen in baseball that escape you. I can’t blame him. He was there to do his job, just like me. We’re a team and a team together.”
–Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.