Given all that transpired on Thursday, Bryce Harper wasn’t as solemn as he has been following the previous three games. He sported a smile. The Nationals had lived to see another day, staving off elimination against the St. Louis Cardinals thanks to the late-game heroics of Jayson Werth.
But the larger question still loomed after his second straight hitless game: what was wrong with the rookie at the plate?
He finished the season on a tear, but in the playoffs, he has produced only one hit in 18 at-bats. He hasn’t even drawn a walk.
“Not really frustrated about it really,” Harper said. “I’m just missing pitches. Popping them up. Just missing. Nothing I can do. Hopefully tomorrow I can come out here and get a few knocks and help our team win.”
In his final 34 games of the season, Harper hit .341 with a 1.098 OPS. Nothing has changed now, he insists. He is just off on pitches he would normally drive. In his first three games, he saw 69 pitches in 15 at-bats — a good rate of 4.6 pitches per at-bat. But Thursday, Harper was his jumpiest. He saw only nine pitches in three at-bats, popping up twice to infielders and flying out to center field in his final plate appearance. Overall, he is still averaging 4.33 pitches per time up.
Harper was a major part of why the Nationals finished the season strong. Now, however, he isn’t contributing like he has before at the plate.
“That’s the hardest thing,” he said. “Coming out there and everybody is swinging it and I’m not. So it’s kind of hard.”