Bryce Harper punctuated his first game at Nationals Park as a member of the Phillies with a moonshot of a home run that prompted chants of “M-V-P!” from the Philadelphia faithful in attendance and sustained boos from what remained of the home crowd. Harper’s eighth-inning blast off Jeremy Hellickson, which completed the scoring in Philadelphia’s 8-2 win, traveled 458 feet. Harper’s bat, launched toward the Nationals’ dugout with an epic flip as the outfielder began his home run trot, traveled a long way, too.
“It’s the emotion of the game,” Harper said after his three-hit night. “That’s it."
“You know what, I try not to watch, but it’s the way the game’s evolved, really,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said when asked about Harper’s flip in his postgame news conference. “Everybody’s got a couple that do it, but I try not to watch, I really do.”
The rest of the baseball world, especially Phillies fans, couldn’t get enough of Harper’s pinwheeling lumber.
"I give him a '9′ on the bat flip and the dismount,” Fox Sports 1 analyst Dontrelle Willis joked. MLB.com’s Cut4 Twitter account gave Harper a ’10′ for style.
“I would sound too much like a dinosaur if we [complained] about bat flips, because everyone flips, everyone stares,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday during an interview with the Sports Junkies on 106.7 the Fan. “You hit the ball that far, you do whatever the hell you want. The best way to stop those kind of bat flips is get 'em out.”
Max Scherzer struck Harper out in his first two at-bats Tuesday, much to the delight of the Nationals fans who showered Harper with boos when his tribute video played before the game, when the ball was hit his way in right field and every time he stepped to the plate.
The Nationals tweeted the title of Ariana Grande’s hit song about ex-boyfriends — “thank u, next” — after Harper’s first strikeout, not-so-subtle shade directed at the 26-year-old who spent the first seven years of his career in D.C. Eight innings later, the Phillies responded with lyrics from the same song and a GIF of Harper bowing to the Philadelphia supporters who packed the right field seats. A Phillies fan watching the game from home created a video of replays of Harper’s bat flip set to Grande’s hit and tweeted it at the Nationals.
Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins told reporters that he was surprised there weren’t more cheers for Harper in his return.
“He’s done a tremendous amount for this city, for this organization, for this community,” Hoskins said, via MLB.com. “He got crushed.”
While Martinez may have tried to avert his eyes, Hoskins had a clear view of Harper’s bat flip from the on-deck circle.
“That was something that I think was pretty thought out,” Hoskins said. “I would’ve done the same thing, very deliberately as well, with the way that he was received.”
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