BALTIMORE -- Since coming off the disabled list on June 30, Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper is 4-for-31 (.129) with one RBI entering Friday's series opener against the Phillies.
However, Harper feels that he is close to getting his stroke back. Case in point: In Wednesday's 6-2 victory over the Orioles, Harper just missed hitting a ball that was right down the middle of the plate, but he ended up popping up to right fielder Nick Markakis. In his final at-bat, Harper hit the ball hard, but it was right at Markakis.
"I feel good. I'm having good at-bats. My numbers might not say that, but we are winning ballgames and that's huge," Harper said. "Everyone is swinging the bat well right now. Hopefully, I can come out and keep having good ABs. Last night was a step forward, hopefully.
"I feel a lot better at the plate. I'm seeing more pitches. I'm just trying to get comfortable. That's the main thing. Get comfortable, getting back into the rhythm and the routine of playing every single day."
Although Harper went hitless in three at-bats in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Orioles, manager Matt Williams felt Harper had a good at-bat in the sixth inning, when Harper lined hard to left field against left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.
"It's a good sign," Williams said. "He was staying on the baseball…. Him going the other way is a really good sign."
Williams feels Harper's batting practices are much better and it's another sign that he is close to getting his stroke back.
"Regardless, whether you are left-handed or right-handed, when you are squaring up to your pull side and you are hitting it to your pull side-fence and it doesn't move toward the foul line, you know you are right," Williams said. "When he hits the ball over the fence in right field, it's straight. That's the key. It's not hooking. He is not hitting topspin liners. He is driving the ball with back spin to his pull side."
During the All-Star break, Harper will be going home to Las Vegas to relax and talk to his father, Ron Harper, about his swing. While Harper is home he will probably hit in the cage with his dad observing.
"I'm going to get better, come back at full strength and try to make a World Series run," Harper said.
Harper commercial debuts on ESPN
BALTIMORE -- Bryce Harper's commercial on ESPN made it its debut on Thursday. The commercial also features ESPN anchors John Anderson, Hannah Storm and Bram Weinstein.
Harper and Storm are seen crying while watching the movie "Field of Dreams," and then Harper says that it's time to call his father. Harper said he enjoyed filming the commercial, which was shot during the offseason.
"It's fun to do things like that during the offseason," Harper said at Camden Yards. "Stras [Stephen Strasburg] did one also. It's fun to be a part of. I was lucky enough that ESPN asked me to do something. It's going to be part of the Sports Center commercial."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.