For the first time since the first four games of his major league career, Bryce Harper is hitting seventh in the Nationals‘ starting lineup. Harper has been mired in an early-season slump — a .160 batting average (4 for 25), 11 strikeouts and a mental day off on Sunday — but the Nationals are also facing a left-handed starter, Miami’s Brad Hand, on Wednesday.
Harper has hit second, fifth and sixth this season, but his placement in Wednesday’s lineup is his lowest since May 2, 2012, the final game of his debut series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Manager Matt Williams has said he is batting Harper lower in the lineup because he wants the outfielder to get opportunities with runners on base.
Williams said he wanted to bat Harper second, like he did on Tuesday, but the Marlins made a late switch for Hand after right-handed stater Jacob Turner hurt his shoulder. Anthony Rendon is also hitting .407 and earned the right to hit second, Williams said. Harper went 1 for 4, an opposite field single, with one strikeout and a run in Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the Marlins. “I think [Tuesday] night was a positive step for him and create some more situations for him tonight hopefully,” Williams said.
Before Wednesday’s game, Harper also had his eyes checked by the team’s optometrist, and his eyes are fine. It is routine for players to have their eyes checked throughout the season or when needed. In the minors, Harper received news lenses from team optometrist, Keith Smithson, and said he could see in HD. Harper has also said that his eyesight would be “terrible” without contact lenses.