Bryce Harper’s hustle (or lack thereof) was the big topic of conversation following the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Mets last night at Nationals Park.
With two runners on and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Harper hit a weak grounder to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Assuming that he would be out by a mile, Harper put his head down in disgust and didn’t run at 100 percent. Murphy bobbled the ball, but recovered and threw out Harper by a few steps at first base.
While it’s possible that Harper still would have been out even if he busted it down the line like he usually does, Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com notes that the play drew some sharp criticism from Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr.
“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough: He gets frustrated,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, who had to take over for an ill Dave Johnson mid-game. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”
“It’s hard for me to say,” Knorr said. “I’m not 20 years old in the big leagues and all this stuff going on around me. Something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we’re just going to have to take him out of the game.”
This comes one day after teammate Jayson Werth told reporters that he’d really like to see Harper “settle in” and “focus in for a month and see what he could do.” Harper addressed the eighth inning play after the game by saying, “I guess I’ll learn from it.”
To be fair, there were other reasons the Nationals lost last night. In fact, the key play of the game occurred in the top of the eighth inning when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made an ill-advised off-balance throw which allowed Daniel Murphy to score what proved to be the winning run. Zimmerman defended his decision after the game by saying he’d “throw that every time” and that Murphy would have been out at home plate if Adam LaRoche was able to field his wild throw. But that’s not nearly as fun to talk about, is it?
Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.
Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”
“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”
Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.
Don’t look now, but the Nationals have the best record in baseball at 16-6. They’re coming off a 10-game road trip in which they went 9-1, including sweeps of the Braves and Mets and a 3-1 series against the Rockies at Coors Field. During that series with the Rockies, the Nationals scored 46 runs, which is nearly as many as the Royals (54) have scored all season long. The Nats scored double-digits in all three wins.
The first game at Coors, an 8-4 loss, saw a three-hit game from Anthony Rendon and a homer from Ryan Zimmerman.
The second game featured Trea Turner hitting for the cycle and driving in seven runs. Daniel Murphy had three hits and five RBI.
The third game saw Turner finish a triple short of the cycle. Bryce Harper had four hits. Zimmerman had three hits including a homer. Murphy homered, too.
The fourth game featured homers from Adam Eaton, Harper, and Murphy. Seven members of the lineup had multiple hits and six had multiple RBI including pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
The series helped the Nationals bring their run differential to +34, the best in the National League. The Yankees are the only team with a better differential at +35.
Indeed, the Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field. They return home to open up a three-game set with the ailing Mets on Friday night.