Harper's hustle comes into question during key at-bat
Nationals phenom doesn't run hard on ground ball to second base to end eighth inning
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has become one of the most popular players in baseball because of the intensity that he brings to every play. But with two on and two outs in the eighth inning of Friday's 3-2 loss to the Mets, that intensity was lacking.
Harper fouled off a 3-0 pitch from left-hander Scott Rice before hitting a routine ground ball to second base. The All-Star's jog to first base would have gone unnoticed, except for the fact that Daniel Murphy bobbled the ball. Harper was easily thrown out and slammed his helmet on the ground.
After the game, bench coach Randy Knorr questioned Harper's effort on the play.
"The thing about Bryce right now that's tough [is] he gets frustrated," said Knorr, who took over for Davey Johnson in the fourth inning when the skipper left the dugout feeling light-headed. "I don't think he does it intentionally, but he's going to have to start picking it up a little bit, because we've got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times, and it just comes out of him. It's something we've got to fix."
Harper, who missed 31 games with bursitis in his left knee earlier this season, said he was confident that Murphy would have thrown him out on the play.
"I mean, groundout to Murphy," Harper said. "He's pretty good over there, so in that situation, I think he makes that play every single day."
Knorr agreed that Harper would've been thrown out on the play even with maximum effort. But the bench coach also said that play was indicative of a larger trend this season.
"[It's] something that we've got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we're just going to have to take him out of the game," Knorr said. "He's been trying, but it just shows up at times. Like in that situation, he's got a chance to tie the ballgame up or go ahead and he doesn't get it done. He knows he's out, and it just comes out of him."
Ryan Zimmerman was running to second base at the time and had his back turned to Harper. While he couldn't say whether the 20-year-old went all-out in that instant, Zimmerman said that Harper plays hard every game like everyone else. Ian Desmond saw the play from the dugout steps.
"I know that when he got 3-0 and he let it go, I know that takes a lot of guts in that situation, lefty-lefty. Those same guts are going to be what makes us give this final push in this last month," Desmond said. "As far as the baserunning goes, it takes guts also to run out the ones that you think are going to be outs. He does it 95, 99, almost 100 percent of the time, and I think this one might've just got pointed out because the guy made a bobble or whatever.
"I mean, he's 20 years old and I think he's still dealing with some emotions of the game. It's hard to remember a lot of the time that he is 20. What most of us were doing at 20 wasn't this."
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.