With a 5-4 walkoff win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, thanks to a two-run home run by shortstop Ian Desmond, the Nationals snapped a five-game losing streak on Wednesday. Teenage phenom Bryce Harper helped spark the ninth-inning rally with a leadoff double off the center field wall.
Sure, it was the team’s first win in past six games, and only the first time they’ve won with him in the lineup, but based on his contributions on Wednesday alone – two doubles, two runs scored, an all-hustle single and an aggressive slide into home – teammates continue to rave about him.
Enough, it seems, can’t be said about what energy a 19-year old has injected into this team and, particularly, its lineup.
“Here’s a 19-year-old kid that’s getting the bat out,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s infectious. It hurts you a little bit missing your three and four-hole hitters, because when they start doing it, it kind of flows. But seeing a 19-year-old hitting seventh come along and have nothing but quality at-bats, that’s impressive.”
It’s one thing to be the best player at most every level he has been, as Harper has his entire life. But it’s another to be a major leaguer at such a young age, hoping not to irk established teammates with too much pizzazz. But, in a sense, there’s no better way to endear yourself with teammates than by producing on the field.
“It’s not necessarily needing to see him do it in the big leagues,” reliever Craig Stammen said. “It’s just we haven’t been able to watch him play a full game. That’s when you tell what a player’s made of. And I think he showed in the situations he was put in tonight, the stage isn’t too big for him.”
Although it’s a small sample size, in the four games Harper has played, he has the shown the ability to do that. In his season debut on Saturday, he went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. He went 3 for 4 on Wednesday, and is 5 for 13 overall.
“He has great confidence in his abilities and is not afraid to show it on the big stage,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday. “His makeup is, the brighter the lights, the better he plays.”
After Wednesday’s game, Johnson, long a Harper advocate, was already considering another move. He joked that his coaches and he wondered if it was too soon to move Harper up in the lineup. Well, was it?
“No,” he answered.
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