Add all his exploits together, and Harper is doing something no teenager ever has in the major leagues. After his second consecutive three-hit game, Harper is batting .307 with a .943 on-base plus slugging percentage. Over a full season, his OPS would surpass the highest mark by a teenager — Mel Ott’s .921 in 1928 — since at least 1900.
“I just feel really good up there,” Harper said. “At the beginning, I usually struggle. Once I get going, it’s scary.”
Harper added that he feels more comfortable with the rest of the lineup coming alive, and the Nationals swatted 10 hits Tuesday. Danny Espinosa drilled a double and a home run, and rookie catcher Jhonatan Solano crunched his first career homer. Chien-Ming Wang pitched around constant trouble for his first win as a starter this season and Tyler Clippard slammed the door for his ninth save.
For all his teammates’ contributions, Harper’s blast to right-center field hung over Rogers Centre all night, the crowd’s collective gasp remaining as a figurative echo. He had piled on one more outsize layer to his rookie season.
Harper has reached base in eight of his last 10 plate appearances, the possible start to one of the monster hot streaks he has compiled each season since junior college. None of those at-bats resonated like his second Tuesday night, with nobody on base in the third inning.
In his first at-bat, Harper had rifled a groundball through the right side for a single. He dug in now against starter Henderson Alvarez with the game still scoreless. He had been selective all series. Now, just because, he wanted to hack.
“I was going up there swinging out of my shoes, first pitch,” Harper said. “I made up my mind in the on-deck circle. It could have been a curveball, 54 feet. I was swinging.”
Alvarez threw him a first-pitch change-up, an off-speed offering to get over for strike one. Harper destroyed it.
“I don’t know why the outfielder went back,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
The ball came off his bat like a cannon blast, soaring to right-center field. It never stopped gathering speed until, suddenly, it thudded off the portion of Windows restaurant covered by a BlackBerry billboard. The place may have been 450 feet from the plate. The collision sounded like a manhole cover dropped from a skyscraper.