With red eyes, Bryce Harper looks to break his slump


Alex Brandon / AP

Before Wednesday afternoon’s game, Bryce Harper solved one of his problems in the NLDS. He stuck one red contact lens in each eye, which made him look like a demon and provided relief from the sun. The lenses are meant to serve as a more powerful version of sunglasses, and with the afternoon start time, they worked.

“In center, I could stare straight at the sun and I had no problem,” Harper said.

He’ll wear them again tomorrow, too. Harper will also try to solve his other problem, which is reaching base. In his first career postseason series, the 19-year-old is 1 for 15 with no walks and six strikeouts.

“I felt good today,” Harper said. “I’m just missing pitches. I’m having good at-bats. Nothing I can do. Just missed a couple.”

Harper has not questioned himself, insisting that he has been barely off after he finished his rookie regular season on a tear. In his final 34 games, Harper hit .341 with a 1.098 OPS. He said nothing has changed, that he’s just been a tick off.

Despite his dearth of walks, Harper has been patient and disciplined in fouling off tough pitches. He has seen 69 pitches in his 15 at-bats, 4.6 per plate appearance. He just hasn’t been able to finish his at-bats the way he wants. In his second at-bat against Chris Carpenter today, Harper hit a weak fly to center and then threw down his bat.

“I missed some pitches that I could have drove,” Harper said.

Harper did change one thing. In his first at-bat, Harper eschewed batting gloves. He chose bare hands because he had switched from a maple bat to ash.

“I just had a comfortability with it,” Harper said. “I felt good going up there. I put some good wood on it, but got it off the end. There’s nothing I can do.”

Harper will try to snap out of his playoff slump Thursday against Kyle Lohse, against whom he went 3 for 6 with a double. Harper played a major role in the Nationals finishing with the best record in baseball. Now that he has scuffled as the Nationals scored seven runs in three games, he will try to help keep the Nationals alive.

“Going into tomorrow, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Harper said. “We got Lohse, and we’ve hit him pretty well all year. It’s win or go home.”

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.

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