Bryce Harper is struggling at baseball for what might be the first time in his life.
Promoted from low Single-A to Double-A last week, the former No. 1 overall pick has gone just 6-for-35 (.171) with zero extra-base hits through 10 games against Eastern League pitching.
He’s an 18-year-old in a league where the average player is 24 and skipped high Single-A altogether, so perhaps the struggles shouldn’t be surprising, but it does show any Nationals fans who wanted Harper in Washington already that baseball is really, really hard.
On the fast track since signing with the Nationals, he skipped rookie-ball and earned a quick promotion by hitting .318 with a .977 OPS in 72 games at low Single-A. He’ll get on track at Double-A soon enough and 10 bad games does nothing to alter Harper’s long-term outlook, but whatever slim odds he had of reaching the majors in his first pro season have diminished even further.
And that’s not such a bad thing. Mike Trout made headlines earlier this month for debuting with the Angels at age 19 and he’s 14 months older than Harper. There’s plenty of time and plenty more regrettable tattoos to get before arriving in Washington.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.