Former NFL head coach Herm Edwards famously stated “You play to win the game,” and it appears that’s the approach Nationals’ star Bryce Harper still has down the stretch of the season. Even when his club’s front office has seemingly thrown in the towel, trading away Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams while allowing Harper to be claimed off revocable waivers by the Dodgers.
Tuesday, in the opener of a three-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper slid into second base off a double and pumped his hands saying “Let’s Go” to his dugout. On Wednesday he kept that same energy with a couple of hustle plays that helped keep the Nationals alive in the game that they ultimately won 8-7 following a walk-off two-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman.
Harper injected his energy on the field and the Nationals’ dugout followed suit. In the first with his Nats already trailing 3-0, Harper laid down a bunt single to third in reaction to the Phillies’ defensive shift. The next batter, Anthony Rendon, drove Harper home with RBI double to close the gap to two runs. Harper’s heads-up play kept the inning alive and he was rewarded.
Shift happens. pic.twitter.com/QWkQlA5VXu
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 23, 2018
By the next time Harper came back to the plate, the Nationals were down 4-1. With Trea Turner on first base, Harper ripped a double to right that allowed the speedy Turner to round the bases to home, cutting the deficit to two. Then, Harper made a gutsy call tagging up from second to third base safely following a sac fly to center. Harper would score off the next batter, as Juan Soto drove him in with an RBI-single. The run would cut the Nats’ deficit to one at 4-3 and they would eventually capped the inning with three runs to tie the game at 4-4.
In the fourth, Harper and the Nationals trailed 5-4 when he delivered a single that pushed Turner from first to third. Harper once again got gutsy, stealing second base that forced a misfire from Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro. The ball skipped into the outfield as Turner took off and scored to tie the game at 5-5.
Harper would finish the game 3-for-5 driving in one run, scoring two runs, and forcing a throwing error that turned into a run for the Nationals.
Harper’s effort kept the Nationals in reach and helped lead to four runs. There is no doubt, Harper is not waving the white flag on 2018 for whatever reasons. The win puts Harper and the Nationals six games out of the second wild card in the National League.