“I wasn’t sure if he caught it,” Harper said. “If he would have caught it, I would have freaked out.”
The ball skipped before it settled in Rottino’s glove. Harper raised his fist into the sky. Zimmerman was the first National to reach him. The face of the franchise leaped into Harper’s arms.
“Oh, my gosh, that was unbelievable,” Harper said. “To have that moment with Zim, it was pretty unbelievable. He’s been there for me through the whole thing, every time I need him.”
Said Zimmerman: “I was just happy the game was over and we won.”
The rest of the Nationals arrived soon after Zimmerman. They pounded Harper on the head. One of them splashed him with a cup of water. Harper escaped the pile, smiling and looking over his shoulder.
Harper ambled toward the Nationals dugout to conduct an on-field television interview. “That was incredible,” Harper said, still breathless. Morse dumped a Gatorade tub over his head.
In his first six weeks in the majors, Harper has defied every convention and surpassed any expectation. Nothing he does surprises his teammates any longer. His OPS sits at .903, the best on the team.
“Honestly, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” Desmond said.
“He’s a man-child,” Morse said. “This guy is unbelievable.”
Held together since spring by starting pitching, 19-year-old enthusiasm and bailing wire, the Nationals (31-22) still have not found the point at which they will crack. If it did not arrive Tuesday night, it may not exist. The Nationals took a three-run lead into the sixth inning, when starter Jordan Zimmermann’s dominant start unraveled with two homers.
The Nationals lost the lead when the Mets (31-25) rallied for two runs in the eighth against Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen, two of their most reliable relievers. Each time the Nationals needed a run to survive, they got it.
“It would have been very easy for the hitters to just say, ‘We’ll go get them tomorrow,’ ” Detwiler said. “But we weathered the storm.”
And, when it came to end it, Harper delivered.
“I mean,” Manager Davey Johnson said, “he’s been unbelievable.”