Sep 2, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT
With two men on and no outs in the eighth inning on Sunday night, and the Nats down by two runs, Bryce Harper didn’t take a swing for the fences, or even swing at all.
He instead took a 0-1 fastball from Mets reliever Scott Rice and laid down a sacrifice bunt to simply move the runners over into scoring position.
It was a surprising move, apparently even for Rice. The pitcher stumbled off the mound and fell as he fielded the ball.
So why, exactly, did one of the Nats’ most capable hitters bunt in that situation?
Harper made the call himself apparently. Even manager Davey Johnson didn’t know it was coming.
“He was doing it on his own,” Johnson said.
Harper’s decision quickly paid off as groundballs by the next two batters – Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman – brought home runs to tie the game.
In hindsight, bunting was the perfect move. But for a player of Harper’s caliber, in that situation, to lay down a bunt could have backfired. If Rendon and Zimmerman don’t cash in, many would wonder why Harper didn’t try for something more.
For Harper though, there are no regrets.
“Runner on first and second right there, you’ve got to get him over,” he said. “Just sac bunt. I didn’t really care. Having those guys move to second and third was huge and started a big inning right there.”
Who knows how Johnson would have reacted if it didn’t work. But given the eventual result, he likes the call Harper made.
“As tough times as we’ve had with hitting with runners in scoring position, putting the tying run down there ain’t a bad idea,” he said.
Johnson was asked if Harper chose to bunt because his sore left knee was acting up during the game.
“He was limping, and I asked him after I think his second at-bat, I said you all right? … but he said he was fine.”
Harper himself shot that theory down as well, but did acknowledge he is playing through pain.
“My knee doesn’t hurt,” he said. “It’s something that some other things hurting me, but I’ll keep those under wraps.”
Harper doesn’t care what people think
I thought I’d also pass along this quote from Bryce after the win, on how he deals with criticism from the media:
“I could care less what people think. Screw what people think. Everybody talks about us all year long saying we’re not going to make this or do that. I could care less what they think. It’s all what we think. I could really care less what the media thinks or anybody else. It’s nice to get that W tonight and like I said, I could care less what people think.”
NL EAST STANDINGS
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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