05/07/12 2:45 AM ET
Harper's swipe of home a measure of payback
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
With two outs in the first inning, Cole Hamels hit Harper with his first pitch to the 19-year-old rookie, then acknowledged that was his intention.
"I was trying to hit him," Hamels said. "I'm not going to deny it. That's just ... something that I grew up watching, that's what happened, so I'm just trying to continue the old baseball. I think some people kind of get away from it. I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn't say anything just because that's the way baseball is. Sometimes the league is protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball."
Harper was politically correct when told that Hamels hit him on purpose.
"[I'm not mad] at all," Harper said. "He is a great guy, great pitcher, he knows how to pitch, he is an All-Star. It's all good. ... Hamels threw a good game tonight. You have to give all the props to him. He came out there, he threw the ball well. There is nothing we can do about it."
After getting drilled, Harper advanced to third on a single by Jayson Werth. Harper was then able to pay Hamels back by stealing home while the pitcher tried to pick off Werth at first base. Harper is the second player in Nationals history to steal home, and the first to do so on a straight steal. Ian Desmond stole home as part of a double steal on April 20, 2011, against the Cardinals.
Before Sunday, the last swipe of home by a teenager occurred 48 years ago this past Saturday, when Angels catcher Ed Kirkpatrick stole home against the Kansas City Athletics.
Before the game, Harper said he had a talk with Werth about Hamels' pickoff moves.
"We were just looking at his pickoff move before the game," Harper said. "I was trying to read some things. We saw something, took advantage of that, got a run early. He threw a good game tonight. I can't take anything away from him. He threw very, very well. He's an All-Star. He threw eight innings. He really threw the ball well."
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was able to pay Hamels back in the third inning, when, with one out and a runner on first, he hit Hamels on the left knee with a pitch. Zimmermann denied that he hit Hamels on purpose.
"He was bunting," Zimmermann said. "I'm going to take an out when I can get an out. I was trying to go away, and I just cut a fastball really bad. Unfortunately, it hit him in the knee."
Hamels understood why Zimmermann paid him back. Home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher then issued a warning to both clubs.
"Oh, yeah. That's baseball," Hamels said. "I'm kind of happy that's the way it works, because that's the way it should. I don't think the umpires should interfere with it. Let baseball be baseball. I grew up playing the game hard and watching it. That's the way it was. I'd hate for them to change it, which has kind of happened in recent years. Just let it play out and then we get back to playing. That's just the way it is, and I'm not going to argue with it."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He can also be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.