8/2/2014 7:37 P.M. ET
Williams thinks Harper close to finding stroke
By Jeff Seidel / Special to MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has been fooling around occasionally with his batting stance while trying to find some answers at the plate, and Nationals manager Matt Williams said he understands what's going on.
"Nobody can feel what you're feeling at the plate unless you're seeing the ball come at you," Williams said before Saturday's game. "You can tell people things, and eventually it comes down to feel and timing and rhythm and all that. And nobody can do that for any player except the player that's standing in there."
Harper missed 57 games after injuring his thumb on April 25 and subsequently having surgery, and he's been up and down at times. He had just a .228 batting average in July, although Harper hit well at times and was hitting .260 coming into Saturday's game against the Phillies.
In Friday's 2-1 loss to Philadelphia, Harper battled closer Jonathan Papelbon through a tough nine-pitch at-bat in the ninth before striking out.
Williams liked what he saw in that at-bat and thinks everything's coming with Harper sooner rather than later.
"He battled in that at-bat," Williams said. "He'll be OK."
Williams also was asked about Harper's tendency to bunt from time to time when trying to work his way out of some batting troubles. The skipper said it's OK depending upon the situation and several other variables.
But more often than not, Williams wants to see the young outfielder swing and cause some trouble that way.
"He just has the opportunity to do something special," Williams said. "When you're searching to find a stroke, sometimes you want to get on base, and I can understand that. But there are times when I'd like to see him let 'er fly and get on second base in scoring position."
• Washington catchers are tops in the Major Leagues at throwing out basestealers. They had nailed 23 of 62 -- a rate of 37.1 percent -- heading into Saturday's matchup. That doesn't count pitcher caught stealing. It's a big improvement over last year, when the Nationals ranked 29th.
• Anthony Rendon entered Saturday's game tied for first in the Major Leagues with 75 runs scored this season. He's also been effective later in the game, batting .295 in the seventh inning or later.
• With a single in the first inning on Saturday, Denard Span has reached base safely via hit or walk in 28 straight games dating to June 28.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.