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Seizing the moment

Jul 2, 2013, 4:50 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

The crowd rose as Bryce Harper stepped to the plate for the first time in five weeks, both to welcome the Nationals outfielder back from the disabled list but perhaps also in anticipation of what might come next.

Even in his brief time in the big leagues, Harper has already shown a penchant for seizing the moment, such as his Opening Day homer on his very first swing of the season. So when he did it yet again, blasting Yovani Gallardo’s 1-0 pitch into the left-field bullpen to christen his return from a knee injury, the ensuing reaction was less shock than pure awe at the 20-year-old’s latest highlight.

“Wouldn’t you know it?” manager Davey Johnson said, shaking his head. “We kinda expected something, something he was gonna do special.”

Whether Harper’s first-inning blast set in motion another team-wide offensive explosion — resulting in a 10-5 thrashing of the Brewers — or not, it was the talk of the Nationals clubhouse afterward nonetheless.

“Typical Bryce, right there,” said Jayson Werth, who drove in five runs upon returning to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, ahead of Harper. “He’s all about the drama, so he didn’t disappoint us, I guess. That was good.”
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  1. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Imagine how proud Bryce's dad has to be! We all stood and would not stop applauding until he came back out. This kid is sometimes just too cool!

  2. MicheleS - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    JoeS.. sounds like most of the family is in town, so I am sure over the next week Bryce will be putting on a show.

  3. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Missed the middle innings but watched the rest on tv. How about that kid? And how about those Nats?

  4. Gonat - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    How's about Denard Span getting 2 walks and smashing that line drive!

  5. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Gonat, it's good to see Span waking up! We all can only hope that it continues, but when was the last time that he actually led off the game by getting on base?

  6. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    I'm more impressed that the "Fire Eck" crowd has nothing to say. Maybe now they realize that they truly don't have a clue what hitting coaches do.

  7. Gonat - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Joe, and what happens when Span gets on base 3 times? He scored 3 times and that was a season high for Span.Span hadn't scored more than 1 run in a game since May 31st. That is signifcant when you have a leadoff man who isn't scoring runs in bunches. Let's hope this is a start of something.

  8. m - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    NatsJack :I am not a fire Eck advocate but maybe you could tell me just what a hitting coach does?Thank you

  9. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Gonat, ALR surprisingly still leads the team in runs scored(38),but with last night's game Span has moved into a tie for second with 36.a month ago he was nowhere near the top on the team in RS. Ultimately, runs scored is the most important stat for the leadoff batter. You can't score if you don't get on base. Denard's production has been improving for the past couple of weeks.

  10. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    NatsJack in Florida said…I'm more impressed that the "Fire Eck" crowd has nothing to say. Maybe now they realize that they truly don't have a clue what hitting coaches do.—–///—Jack, I doubt seriously that people that don't have a clue could ever realize that they don't have a clue.

  11. A DC Wonk - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Span, last 11 games: .341/.400/.512/.912 with 9 runs scored, 5 doubles and a triple.

  12. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    As I've said before, a hitting coach gathers information on opposing pitchers and his teams hitters.Every at bat by his teams hitters is charted, videoed and documented in reports and DVD's that are provided to the hitters and the coaching staff (Davey and Randy Knorr).Every opposing pitcher is analyzed and documented as to pitch selection in different count situations so that trends can be established. Again, this information is made to every hitter and the coaching staff.Should a particular hitter be experiencing problems, any changes in their batting habits is also noted in the the reports and it is up to the hitters to approach the hitting coach for suggestions and possible remedies.With the Nats, Davey will direct a particular hitter to approach Eck if he feels there is work that needs to occur.Again, it is ALWAYS on the hitter.With Eck, it is the accuracy and thoroughness of his reports that everyone refers to when calling him the best and hardest working hitting instructor they've ever worked with.

  13. Doc - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Thanks NatsJack for continuing to say what has been said many times before by posters like you about Rick Eckstein.I doubt that there is a manager in baseball that knows more about hitting than Davey–which is why he Eck work so well together.It's all about a batter's ability to hit when he's in the box. Kinda simple really. A hitting coach can merely reinforce what a batter needs to do. The batter needs to do it.The neagativity about Eck is 100% baloney!I'll bet that Chris Davis is being told the same things to do in 2013, as he was in 2009, but now he's doing it–and in a big time way!

  14. Drew - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Strasburg now leads the starters with a 2.41 ERA to Jordan's 2.46, but Strasburg has eight fewer wins.I hope the offense keeps rolling for the big fella.

  15. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    A fun read regarding hitting coaches:http://www.halosheaven.com/2010/8/20/1630102/fire-hatcher-five-myths-about-mlb

  16. Gonat - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    I read back through the game thread. All was great until the score got to 8-4 then the neganons started to come on to post.Just like the Eck bashers, who are these people and what the heck is wrong with them?Clearly Eck couldn't help Espinosa, nobody can it seems. Student or teacher? It's amazing when you have quality students how well they do.

  17. jeffwx - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Eck doing a great job with Znn ;)

  18. jeffwx - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Did Chris Davis have a high potential ? I question how he got so good so fast.Is Espi really hurt with the rotator cuff.

  19. d'grviii 8 - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    "I doubt that there is a manager in baseball that knows more about hitting than Davey"Charlie Manuel, hitting coach for Manny Ramirez and others with the Cleveland Indians, back when they were good.

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Everything about Chris Davis's numbers throughout his minor league career indicated the man could rake.He struggled with Texas in his stints with the big club and the Orioles were able to practically steal him.

  21. A DC Wonk - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Clearly Eck couldn't help Espinosa, nobody can it seems. Student or teacher? It's amazing when you have quality students how well they do. Eck could have helped Espi, but he couldn't. Eck should be fired.And now that Espi is in AAA-Syracuse and can't hit, it's obvious that the hitting coach for Syracuse should be fired, too.See — that simple!(make sure your sarcasm filters are working this morning ;-) )

  22. A DC Wonk - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Seamhead — that article was so good (thanks) it deserves posting again:Joe Seamhead said… A fun read regarding hitting coaches: http://www.halosheaven.com/2010/8/20/1630102/fire-hatcher-five-myths-about-mlb

  23. baseballswami - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I think the relationship between Jayson and Bryce has been fascinating to watch. Jayson really seems to bust Bryce's chops and stay all over him, but Bryce really seems to look up to him and listen to him. I truly believe that Jayson has had a huge influence on Bryce and has helped him navigate the big leagues since day one. Last night after the home run, Jayson , for once, did not play it cool. They did double high fives and just screamed in each other's faces. That was a really fun thing to see. Bryce has superstar written all over him, but I feel that landing with the Nats , and having really good veteran mentors, has been a good thing for him being so young at the beginning of his career. It's like those kids who go to college- it needs to be the right place and with the right people. Can you imagine if he had gone to the Marlins and Guillen?

  24. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. d'grviii 8 - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    If Bryce had gone to the Marlians and Guillen, he would have changed his name to Giancarlo.

  26. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    "Last night after the home run, Jayson , for once, did not play it cool. They did double high fives and just screamed in each other's faces. That was a really fun thing to see."Yeah, that was a cool moment, swami. I was saying yesterday I suspect Werth has played a significant role in Harper's plate discipline, in particular, and in his acclimation overall. Really glad Werth's with us for the long haul, whatever his on-field contributions–or lack thereof–might be in 2 or 3 years. In the meantime, the mentor presence, contributing 5 RBIs in a game, good pop, and good defense is a fantastic combo :).

  27. JD - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Swami, I was at the game on Saturday at Citi and our seats were in right field right behind Werth. He was busting Span all game in a goofing off sort of way. Some Met fans were heckling him the entire game (they were really kind of funny to tell you the truth). I think Werth is not only good for Bryce, I think his value to the Nats goes way beyond his numbers.

  28. JD - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Joe S. You are right on Span. In the last couple of games he has had some excellent at bats all around and this is what he needs to do consistently.Curiously enough though his 1st at bat to lead off a game has normally been his worst one.

  29. Doc - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Great article on hitting coaches! It sums it up for me. Done with a great sense of understanding and humor.Sonething that we should all read. Man, can that guy write, or what!Thanks Seams!

  30. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Thanks, Wonk. I got a few good laughs out of it, but it was also actually pretty informative.

  31. JD - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Joe S. Really good article. Hits the nail right on the head.

  32. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Yeah, I loved that.Swami said…Last night after the home run, Jayson, for once, did not play it cool. They did double high fives and just screamed in each other's faces. That was a really fun thing to see.

  33. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Doc and Wonk, I think that it would be good for the "fire Eck" crowd to read, just to put it in perspective for what they are harping about.Gonat, I also read through the game thread, and wondered the same thing as you as to who are these people?

  34. NatsLady - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Thanks for reposting, I didn't see it the first time, I laughed so hard I cried…

  35. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Joe…. I'm not sure the "fire Eck" crowd has enough patience to read that entire article.But I hope they do.

  36. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    JD said… I think Werth is not only good for Bryce, I think his value to the Nats goes way beyond his numbers.He kind of has that John Wayne sheriff bravado and when things are going well can also let his inner kid come out like we saw a little of yesterday. Jayson is very guarded in what the outside world sees. Werth and Desi are the team leaders, but clearly this team plays better when Werth is around.I am very interested in seeing how this team plays for Taylor Jordan on Thursday. An 11:00AM start time after a game that should end around 9:30PM.Rumor is Ramos may start on Thursday.

  37. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    One of the folks who come in guns blazing in bad situations sometimes posts comments almost identical to a Braves troll on WaPo named BravetyBrave.Another obsessively commentated an Os game.And, there have been voluminous posts by others focusing the merits of other teams, players, owners, etc.If you pay attention, you'll noticed that when things are bad, such posters dump on people here and on the Nats; when things are good, they harp on other teams, players, owners, etc.I honestly don't wonder much about who these folks are.

  38. Faraz Shaikh - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    too bad mickey still got fired, in may 2012 when angels were hitting .250/.301/.379 and rest of the season hit .280/.340/.448.I liked the brandon wood part of the article. hilarious!

  39. NCNatsie - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    I enjoyed the hitting coach article, Seamhead. Thanks. I also learned a lot from your explanation, Natsjack. But even with all that study, I still don't think I'm qualified to judge Eck's performance, so I'll maintain my silence on that issue.Good student that I am though, I have a couple of questions. 1) In the article, it tackles the myth that hitting coaches set a team's hitting style. Does that mean the whole thing about Charlie Lau working to get all his hitters to hit it straight up the middle is a myth? 2) Natsjack, you say "Should a particular hitter be experiencing problems, any changes in their batting habits is also noted in the the reports and it is up to the hitters to approach the hitting coach for suggestions and possible remedies." Why is that? Why wouldn't the coach seek out the hitter and ask if he bothered to read the thing about changing his habits, and would he like to talk about it?

  40. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    So much for the scouting reports the Mets were using. The Brewers served up a few outside to Rendon and he served it down the 1st base line. I'm just glad some teams aren't smart enough to scout players properly.

  41. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    That was good, NatsLady! Personally, I hate to see a ML team bring in a non-pitcher to pitch. You can destroy a guy's arm doing it.

  42. NatsLady - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    Wonk, I know you like this sort of thing. Do you read these weekly reports? Sometimes quite funny.weekly awardshttp://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/tht-awards070213/

  43. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    "A chronological list of when the last position player pitched for each team:1.2.3….10. Orioles – Chris Davis, 2012"That's funny right there.

  44. NatsLady - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Actually, I want to express a little sympathy. One of the negative-type posters (not always negative) said he/she mostly watches the games alone and comes on here to express frustration. My brother-in-law is kind of that type, though not a sports fan–and my sis has been married to him for over thirty years. Takes all kinds.

  45. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Fun link, Joe. Thanks.On position players pitching, I was wondering about it the other day, as Recker toed the rubber. Who would be the first guy out of the 'pen, er dugout, in a similar situation for the Nats?

  46. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    So, in the "nitpicking eeensy weeensy problems" department, since I started reading here I noticed that the page initially loads with one font, then quickly changes to another one. Today, that seems to have been resolved.Carry on.

  47. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    These aren't little leaguers. These are guys who have developed their particular skill set to the point of being at the pinnacle of their proffession. Did you read the entire article Joe and Wonk linked?Pro's have been trained to make their own adjustments and aren't always open to anyone, including a hitting coach, approaching them about their particular hitting habits.

  48. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Not to mention, at work, I'm expected to do my job and do it well. If I suddenly start slipping, I don't suspect my boss would approach me and suggest I take some remedial training, I suspect he'll eventually tell me to get back on the ball…or else…

  50. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Good comments on Span and his run scoring ability. Hard to be believe yesterday was his season high for runs scored in a game but keep in mind that if they aren't making contact behind him he won't be scoring runs.Again, it's more than just getting on base, it's staying on base and getting in scoring position.Here's what I noticed with Span. He had a great April in OBP and taking walks. In May, he didn't take the walks but got more XBH. In June, he wasn't getting the hits or taking the walks and he was just wasn't making solid line drive contact.What changed in his approach?The line drives became flyballs. Here is Denard's flyball slash .188/.188/.328/.516 and his line drive slash .564/.564/.927/1.491

  51. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    SI on position players pitching last weekend. I like the scouting reports. Plus, they mention Micah Owings, but he's not on the big league team so that doesn't answer my question. :-)

  52. A DC Wonk - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    NatsLady said… Wonk, I know you like this sort of thing. Do you read these weekly reports? Sometimes quite funny.Thanks, NL! Now I have three go-to sources from which to steal stuff for "tidbits"! ;-)

  53. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    In this day and age virtually every guy that makes it to the ML level has had a zillion coaches try to rework their swing. They have to be pretty hardened to taking too much advice on the swing/stance itself. In most cases, if they couldn't hit they wouldn't be up there.

  54. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    And my comments on not approaching hitters is not absolute. If you've ever watched batting practice, you'll note that Eck is ALWAYS behind the cage and inevitably, comments like "get that foot down early" or " open your hips quicker" are constant reminders of various things that might take place.But to think that a slumping hitter can expect a hitting coach to provide all the info needed to shake out of a slump and miraculously have it happen without complete and proper execution by the player is silly. It's all on the hitter.

  55. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I think Micah Owings was released.

  56. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    I believe Owings opted out.

  57. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    It was a mutual thing with Micah. I wonder if it's the end for him, or will he sign elsewhere? Phil Woods must be crushed!

  58. NCNatsie - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Not sure I agree with you, Eric. Maybe your business is different, but in mine, advertising, the comparable situation would be for the media director's boss to say that he'd noticed the client's market share had dropped since the media director changed the spot mix, and maybe he ought to go back to the old mix. And if the boss didn't do that, he wouldn't be doing his job.

  59. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    NCNatsie, imo that kind of issue operates at a much higher level, more akin to the overall strategy deployed for getting runs across. Hitting would be more about the quality of the individual spots themselves.

  60. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    So the director is the hitting instructor and the boss is the hitter.

  61. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Speaking of hitting coaches. I never thought Hanley Ramirez would be viable again and this is what he has done this season in LA:.387/.427/.707/1.133 Adrian Gonzalez is batting .296, Puig is batting .436 and Matt Kemp is actually the weakest link these days in their starting lineup at .278 over the last month.As weak as the NL West is you have to wonder if the Dodgers can stay hot and get a few games over .500 to take the West.They are 38-43 right now and are looking to upgrade their starting rotation.The Nats start back from the All Star break against the Dodgers which probably means they will reset their rotation with Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and the Nats with a combo of JZim, Stras and Gio.

  62. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Jack, I heard of a fine tuning made by a ML hitting coach that was interesting. A RH batter had trouble against hard throwing RH pitching. The coach noticed the hitter's head was positioned in such a way that he saw the ball leave the pitcher's hand with his left eye. The coach determined that the hitter was right eye dominant and had him turn his head ever so slightly so as he saw the ball leave the pitcher's hand with his right eye. He not only made better contact, he was able to determine off speed pitches sooner.

  63. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    >So the director is the hitting instructor and the boss is the hitter.In my response to NCNatsie, the director is the hitting instructor and the boss is Davey. The hitter is the guy producing the ads.

  64. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Joe…..I've heard that one, too.

  65. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Ian Krol @IanKrolTKB #EatingFacé #NationalsWhat's up with the accent mark on the "e" in Face? Did he get authorization from Jayson Wérth to do that? ;)

  66. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    "The Nats start back from the All Star break against the Dodgers which probably means they will reset their rotation with Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and the Nats with a combo of JZim, Stras and Gio."Seriously? The Braves miss them twice and then we come off the all star break and probably have to face them both again? So aggravating!

  67. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    I don't get the "it's always on the players" portrait of the hitter/hitting coach relationship.Nor the idea that hitters have so refined their "professional skills" that they can firewall any attempt at constructive criticism.Or that the role of the hitting coach is simply to review film and compile statistics. If that's the case then a geek who's never lifted a bat could be the hitting coach with an Apple laptop.I've been lucky to live in an era of great swing coaches, including Lau — who revolutionized hitting (for those willing to listen) — Walt Hriniak, Deacon Jones and Terry Crowley. I've been reluctant to criticize Eckstein — mostly because of last year — but at a total loss to comprehend what he's been doing. If it hasn't been offering ideas to some of these guys as to how to get out of their season-long slumps, then what was it? Why was it Johnson last year felt it necessary to go "hands on" with some of them, including Desmond? I accept that some of them, e.g., Bernadina, Lombardozzi, are streaky guys who overperformed last year and of whom not much should be expected. And others, e.g., Moore, are just inexperienced. But there are others whose approaches seem to range between stubborn and stoopid. E.g., Zimmerman's exaggerated sense of his knowledge of the strike zone, Werth in 2011, Desmond's insistence on trying to hit the first pitch of every AB out of the park, Espinosa (res ipsa loquitur). If Eckstein/Johnson aren't getting through to these guys, maybe they should just hire the geek.

  68. JD - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Ghost, I was thinking the same thing. I am very underwhelmed by Arizona's starting pitching outside of Corbin and he's been pitching way over his head. I kind of like Colorado's big 3 starters but when you have to go to the scrap heap to get 2 more pitchers you are in trouble. I still think the Giants will pull that division out (I am a big fan of Bochy) but if the Dodgers ever get everyone healthy they have to at least be in the mix. As far as Hanley goes; he's such a gifted hitter. Matbe top 5 on talent alone. If he ever kept his head straight you know he can be scary good.

  69. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    As I've said before, the highest impact result from a hitting coach can have on a batter is getting that batter mentally prepared for his AB.The mental aspect of hitting far exceeds the physical demands.When they say hitting is contagious it's usually caused by a mental mindset that a batter has the upper hand.

  70. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    JD, I'm going to predict 86 wins will win the NL West and it will be whoever improves the most at the trade deadline.Arizona is in 1st place with an identical record to the Nats at 42-40. If the Dodgers can get on a run from their 38-43 record or the Giants at 39-43 record it's anyone's division to take.

  71. baseballswami - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    I think it is hilarious that in one week Eck has gone from goat to martyred folk hero. But then I tend to be cynical anyway. So much was made of Harper being back- I think one of the reasons the guys like having him around is that he takes the spotlight, leaving them alone the way they like it. JZ with his 12th win, K's, no BB, three hits! The story lead is Bryce. One thing I have been amazed by is how seamlessly Rendon has blended into this team. He had very little experience- it's not supposed to be that way. He looks the same in every at bat, same demeanor, same approach. He is a child. Where are these young, pulled – together phenoms coming from? Is there a phenom tree somewhere?

  72. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    New Post

  73. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    Thanks, guys. I'll let you two work out the drink thing. :-)Joe Seamhead said… I think Micah Owings was released. July 02, 2013 10:32 AM Eric said… I believe Owings opted out. July 02, 2013 10:34 AM

  74. Eric - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Actually, mine was a direct response to Joe's, but I'll happily buy him a drink anyway ;)

  75. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Oops, maybe I need another drink – of coffee. :-)

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