Werth’s injury hung over the game, but in the first, Harper’s staggering ability shined. With two outs, Hamels drilled Harper with a 93 mph fastball in the backside, the place you hit a batter when you are trying to hit them. Afterward, Hamels freely admitted he did it on purpose.
“I was trying to hit him,” Hamels told Philadelphia reporters. “I’m not going to deny it. That’s just — you know what, it’s something that I grew up watching. That’s what happened, so I’m just trying to continue the old baseball. . . . I’m not going to injure a guy. They’re probably not going to like me for it but I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t trying to do it.”
Informed that Hamels had hit him on purpose, Harper laughed. “He’s a great guy, great pitcher, knows how to pitch,” Harper said. “He’s an all-star. It’s all good.”
With Harper on first, Werth lined a single to left. Harper bolted all the way from first to third, not even drawing a throw.
With Tracy at the plate, Hamels become occupied by Werth at first base. He attempted to pick off Werth, and Harper crept down the line, intently focused on the play. Before the game, third base coach Bo Porter, Werth and Harper had discussed Hamels’s deliberate move to first base and believed they could exploit it.
“We saw something,” Harper said. “I took advantage of that.”
With the count 1-2, Hamels tried another toss to first. 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. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he had become the first teenager to steal home since Ed Kirkpatrick in 1964.
Harper had sent one message to Hamels. Hamels came to bat for the first time in the third inning, with one out and Pete Orr on first base. Hamels squared to sacrifice bunt, and Jordan Zimmermann threw a 93-mph fastball off of Hamels’s right shin. Zimmermann insisted he did not hit Hamels on purpose.
“He was bunting, and I’m going to take an out when I can get an out,” Zimmermann said. “I was trying to go away, and I cut a fastball really, really bad and hit him in the knee.”
Hamels glared at Zimmermann. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher walked from behind the dish and warned both benches — any more intentional plunkings, and the pitcher and his manager would be ejected.
“I didn’t realize he even gave a warning until the next inning I came out there,” Zimmermann said.
At least on Sunday, Hamels had the last laugh. In the fourth inning, Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer off of Zimmermann to give the Phillies a lead they would not relinquish. Hamels did not allow another run in eight innings, striking out eight while allowing five total hits and a walk. Harper smacked two more hits, a single and a squibber to left that he turned into a hustle double.
“He proved everything he needed to prove tonight,” Desmond said.
The Nationals assumed Hamels had hit Harper on purpose even before he copped to it. Their take: The Phillies now care enough about the Nationals to view them as a threat.
“Usually it seems the Phillies aren’t that hyped up to come play us,” Desmond said. “I think that they realize that they needed to step up a little bit, and that’s nice. It’s nice to have that feeling where, ‘Hey, they’re intense over there.’ Usually when we play them, they’re not. I think that they realized that we’ve got a good ballclub and they needed to kind of take it up a notch.”
Said Tracy: “I think those guys know we’re here.”
The Nationals took little solace. As Harper spoke to reporters, one of them told him the news on Werth. Harper had yet to hear. “Did he break his wrist?” he said, disbelieving. “Wow. That’s really bad.”