Bryce Harper left Monday night’s Nationals game against the Dodgers in the fifth inning, walking off on his own power after a frightening, face-first crash into the right field fence that left him bloodied and the rest of the Nationals startled.
Harper received 11 stitches under his chin but did not suffer a concussion, according to Nationals officials and Harper’s agent Scott Boras. Harper also underwent “precautionary” X-rays on his jammed left shoulder, Manager Davey Johnson said. He also bruised his neck and knee. The prevailing sentiment was that Harper would probably miss a game or two – even if he pleaded to stay in Monday night as blood dripped down his neck.
“Bryce is going to be all right,” Johnson said.
Leading off the fifth inning, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis roped a line drive over Harper’s head in right field. Harper sprinted after the ball, looking over his left shoulder, even as he reached the warning track.
“I thought he was going to try to brace himself or do something,” center fielder Denard Span said. “As the ball kept going, I just was like, ‘Is he going to stop?’ And he just kept going.”
As the ball crashed off the wall, Harper turned, apparently unaware of his proximity to the wall, and smashed face-first into the fence.
“It just looked weird, like it caught him by surprise the ball was hit to him,” Span said. “The way he ran into the wall, he definitely had no idea where he was. As soon as he ran into it, it’s like his body locked up. I’ve never seen anybody run into the wall like that.”
Harper’s hat flew off his head, like a piece of ski equipment after a crash, and he crumpled to the warning track dirt. Dodgers Stadium hushed. Harper lay still as Span picked up the ball and fired it into the infield.
“I didn’t even know where I threw it,” Span said. “I just let it go.”
Span tended to Harper as head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz and Johnson hustled to right field. Span told him not to get up, to relax before the trainer arrived.
“Initially, it was like he was confused,” Span said. “I don’t think he realized he was on the ground. I think once it set in that he was on the ground, he was okay. And he just kept asking me, ‘Is it bad? Is it bad?’ I’m like, ‘You’re bleeding a little bit.’ ”
Before they arrived, Harper started writhing and rolling over. Kuntz inspected him, and after a minute Harper rose to his feet, blood on his neck. He had run into the lighted scoreboard portion of the fence, which may have accounted for the cut.
Harper, who had a single, two walks and two runs in three plate appearances, tried convincing Johnson and Kuntz to let him stay in the game. As he walked off the field with them, the blood on his neck was the only noticeable damage.
“It definitely wasn’t a pretty sight, seeing the blood trickle down his neck,” Span said. “Thank God he was able to get up. He actually was trying to stay in the game. I was looking at him like, ‘No, you need to come out of the game.’ He’s a warrior. I guarantee he’s probably going to try to play tomorrow. I just thank God he’s okay.
“He kept telling Davey, ‘I’m okay, serious.’ I was like, ‘Is somebody going to step up and say he’s not okay? Because he doesn’t look too good.’ ”
After the inning ended, General Manager Mike Rizzo and team owner Mark Lerner left their seats and headed back toward the clubhouse area.
A collision between Harper and the wall already scared the Nationals once this season. On April 30 in Atlanta, Harper badly bruised his left side as he leaped at the fence to try to steal a home run. He left the next night’s game after six innings, but returned the next day. Harper went 2 for his next 19, clearly affected by the ailment.
“He’s not worried about the wall or anything,” Johnson said. “He should know it’s on the warning track and back off, but that’s not his nature. I don’t want to change that. I feel sorry for the wall if he keeps running into them.”
Harper has a history with the Dodgers Stadium wall. Last year, in the second game of his major league career, Harper collided with the center field wall as he made an oft-replayed catch. He hurt his back on that play, an injury that lingered but never caused him to miss games.
Roger Bernadina replaced Harper in right field.
Harper was not available for comment late Monday night.