Bryce Harper hits a sac fly to score Trea Turner during Thursday’s first inning. He is hitting .244 on the season after hitting .330 in his MVP 2015. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Bryce Harper would appreciate it if everybody would just shut the heck up with all the well-intentioned advice and the high-baseball-IQ analysis about how to get out of his three-month slump. He doesn’t want to hear about how fast his front foot does (or does not) stride, or why he flies open with his right shoulder and doesn’t keep his bat through the hitting zone as long as he did last year. Harper knows he looks as if his timing is off, that he’s in-between on every pitch and drips frustration.

“It’s like quicksand. The harder you fight, the deeper you sink,” said Harper, the 23-year-old reigning National League MVP who is now hitting .24 4 and is in a 5-for-45 nosedive.

Harper doesn’t want to hear about the pitch sequences that are getting him out or the areas within the strike zone, like up-and-in, where he’s done little damage and shown no power all year. If you think you know why he crushed curveballs last year, but not this, keep it to yourself. Trust Bryce on this; he’s noticed. There isn’t even any consolation in the hard, objective fact that he’s had tough luck all year while teammates, for whom he’s happy, have gotten the balls-with-eyes and the blessed bloops.

“Everybody means well, but when this guy or that person says something, it’s going to get in there in your head. You remember it,” said Harper, who was benched Sunday for a mental day of rest, before a scheduled off-day for the Nats on Monday, so that his mind could unwind.

However, by the bottom of the eighth inning of a 6-6 game, the Nats had men on the corners with only one out and Harper’s replacement-for-the-day, Chris Heisey due to hit. It was time to win the game, perhaps with as little as a sacrifice fly. If, for example, in that spot, you had Ken Griffey. Jr., who went into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, ready on your bench, wouldn’t you use him, no matter what?

But this is how badly Harper is going, and how long he has been doing so: Baker kept him out when the game was on the line.

“The only thing is, Bryce hasn’t had much success against [Padres reliever Ryan] Buchter,” Baker said. “And he was coming off the bench cold. Heisey’s a good fastball hitter. And Buchter’s left-handed. Bryce hasn’t had . . . or, for that matter, any left-hander hasn’t had much success versus Buchter.”

Heisey popped out weakly in foul territory. Baker didn’t pinch-hit Harper for the next man, either — strikeout-challenged Michael A. Taylor — because the Padres could simply have pitched around Harper to load the bases and get to Danny Espinosa. “There was never the right spot,” Baker said. For the Harper of ’15, every spot was the right spot. For the Harper of ’16, at least since April, not so much.

Taylor chased a high fastball to strike out and kill the rally. The roof (and four runs) fell on Jonathan Papelbon after he’d gotten two outs in the ninth inning, and the Nats lost, 10-6. Their NL East lead remained at 4½ games as they headed on a nine-game trip. But the game ended on a sour irony as Harper actually did get in the game — after it was too late. Harper replaced Heisey — yes, Heisey — in right field in a double switch to start the ninth. In the bottom half, Harper popped out.

Many things went well for Harper last season. But one of them was the presence of former manager Matt Williams as a personal day-to-day hitting collaborator. Not a technical coach. They were more mind-meld. They’d talk about the day’s pitcher or what sequence to anticipate or, over and over, not to try for monster homers when 390 feet would do. Williams made his blunders and had his detractors, but he clicked with Harper. Davey Johnson and Baker both have Harper’s respect as managers. But special is special, and who knows exactly why?

“The biggest thing about Matt was that he’d tell people to stay the hell away from me. ‘He’ll get out of his rut,’ ” recalled Harper, who has, clearly, been bombarded with counsel from all directions in recent weeks. “In baseball, it’s easy to get voices from everywhere. You hear them. You can’t help it. Some of it sticks there. Matt would wait until I came to him and say, ‘Matt, what do you think?’ He’d say, ‘Well, what do you think?’ Usually, I’d answer myself. It was easy.”

And now?

“Tough game,” said Harper, with a brief grin.

Just as Harper would do without too much advice, he also doesn’t need anybody’s sympathy. He talks beside his locker about all the hits that fell in for him last year, the grounders that found holes, when he hit .330, far above any other season in his five years.

“I was able to do that last year,” Harper said. Then, grinning again, he looks at Daniel Murphy being interviewed because he’s had another great day.

“Murph’s getting some of the hits I got last year,” Harper said. “That’s why it’s so good to be on a great team. We all enjoy [each other’s good fortune]. I know I help this lineup. And . . . ”

Harper pauses. Every hitter thinks they are close to the breakout. And Harper has always gotten hot again, his whole baseball life. Others might see the past 99 games; he sees the next 63. “October,” he says, meaning when the totals are finally added up. “Twenty homers, 60 RBI,” he says with an ambiguous look. Does he mean the 20 bombs and 55 RBI he already has, or what might still be to come?

For Harper, every season, and every part of that season, is just part of a larger work-in-progress that is never finished. “No amount of production will ever be what I want. Last year wasn’t enough,” he says. “I’m still trying to learn, still evolve.”

As just one example, in anticipating pitch sequences, “I’m trying to work off the catcher. There’s a big difference between what a young catcher calls and Yadi [Molina] or Buster [Posey] is going to call? I’ll think, ‘What would Yadi call in this situation to get himself out?’

“Then you have [pitchers like] Max Scherzer who calls his own game,” Harper said. “You try to figure out their ‘book’ on you. And then when they ‘flip the book.’ ”

Harper starts remembering individual recent at-bats that almost were, but were not, what he’d hoped. That 475-foot third-deck homer last week is almost forgotten. But the pitch on Saturday night when he struck out? On that he was “just out in front . . . back it up .”

The bombs and the K’s, they look so different from the stands. They feel so close together in the batter’s box — well, if Harper is the person in that box.

“You want to be so good. Someday, maybe I’ll have all the books [on me],” he said, half-joking as he gets his dress suit just right and his tie the way he wants it. Then it’ll be, ‘You got me last time. But you won’t get me this time.’ ”

Harper heads for the Nats team bus. Who knows how he does it, but he looks as confident, as optimistic that he’ll figure a way out of the quicksand, as he always does. The stat sheet says .245, but Harper walks away like his feet won’t be in a quagmire, his fanny benched against a lefty, for too much longer.

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