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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to show ‘heart’ and ‘play like a family’

(Justin Lane/EPA)

Bryce Harper is a 20-year-old in a room of older teammates, so he knows he is not the National expected to speak out. After the Nationals’ 11-1 loss to the Tigers today, he couldn’t stay silent any longer.

Harper left the game because of a mild spasm in his hip, which should not limit him to any significant degree. Afterward, he stood at his locker and called for the Nationals to play harder and with more cohesion, aiming his fiery message not only at teammates but also at Manager Davey Johnson and the first-place Atlanta Braves.

“We got our [butts] kicked for two games,” Harper said. “That’s something you don’t want to have happen. But you got to have heart. That’s the biggest thing right now. You got to play with heart. You got to play as a family. Everybody’s got to want it, starting with the manager on down – everybody. Everybody wants to win this and keep going.

“We need to get going and play better, hit better, have better ABs in certain situations and pitch better also. It’s just something we need to do. We play the Braves nine games. This [expletive] ain’t over. I really don’t think it’s over. We just got to keep going, keep grinding and turn into the family that we were last year.”

Harper said he had noticed the lack of a “family” atmosphere for a while.

“Absolutely,” Harper said. “I’m not the one to speak on it. I try to be a leader, but I’m younger. There’s things we can do better. I think everybody knows we’re a better team than we’re showing right now.”

Earlier in the day, Johnson had said the Nationals’ “World Series or Bust” season looked more like “bust” and discussed how the Nationals’ season had reached this point. Harper expressed the need to close ranks and find positivity among teammates and the coaching staff, including Johnson.

“We just need to be a family again,” Harper said. “That’s the biggest thing. It all starts with having good camaraderie in the clubhouse. Having an upbeat clubhouse every single day. Having an upbeat manager and staff, every single day, no matter what. We could be 10 games out, but we got two more months. We got two more months of baseball, and if we play like we’re capable of playing, we will win this. We will do it. I know that for a fact, because we have a great team and a great organization. And we have guys on this team that are unbelievable. We just need to keep going, keep grinding, and do the things we need to do.”

The Nationals are currently 10½ games behind the Braves with 54 games remaining.

“We can’t worry about the Braves,” Harper said. “We got to worry about staying out of fourth place. We just got to take it one game at a time and play these last two months like we’ll never play this game again.”