There are fives tools in baseball; hit for average, hit for power, speed, defense, and throwing arm. Bryce Harper has them all, and all were on display Wednesday night in the Nats 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Harper nearly had two homers on the evening and would have if the weather was a little warmer. Instead he had to settle for two monster doubles with two runs scored the final of which being the game tying run on Ian Desmond’s walk-off homer.
Not to take anything away from Desmond, who has surprisingly been the second best short stop in the NL East this season trailing only Ruben Tejeda of the Mets in overall WAR, but this was Bryce Harper’s night. Harper has shown in his short time in the majors that he has no intention of being sent back down. In order to understand the prodigious talent of Bryce Harper one only needs to look at the fourth inning of this game.
In the top half of the inning Justin Upton homered to lead-off the inning and tie the game. Kubel and Montero followed that up with back to back singles. The next batter Paul Goldschmidt would line the ball to Harper. It looked deep enough to score the runner but as Harper has done before he showed off his cannon of an arm on a throw to Wilson Ramos that held Kubel at third. Kubel would eventually score on a sac fly into the glove of Xavier Nady, but the bottom of the inning would belong to Harper as well.
After LaRoche and Nady made outs and Espinosa walked Harper would come to the plate. Facing Joe Saunders, a lefty who coming into this game led all of baseball in ERA, Harper would work the count full and then on the sixth pitch of the at bat he crushed a ball deep to right. Off the bat it had the sound and look of a homerun. It was high and deep looking for a moment like it may even be headed to the upper deck. The ball died in the air but got deep enough to ricochet off the out of town scoreboard. Espinosa would come around to score and Harper was now at second with two outs and Ramos at the plate.
The most underrated tool in Harper’s arsenal is his speed. In the second inning he had beaten out a swinging bunt for a single and now here he was on second when Ramos sharply hit a ball off of Aaron Hill that bounced into shallow left field. Harper didn’t hesitate one bit in rounding third and heading home. It looked like he would have been out had Montero held onto the ball but no one even expected Harper to try and score from second on an infield single.
The legend of Bryce Harper grew by leaps and bounds this evening and anyone that hasn’t seen him play in person yet should make sure they do. The only thing left for the Nats to do to make this night complete was to win. It is tough to have a coming out party when the home team loses. After Harper roped his second double of the evening off of the top of the out of town scoreboard Ramos and Ankiel would strikeout leaving the game in the hands of Ian Desmond.
Desmond has been aggressive at the plate all season having drawn only five walks. That approach has made Desmond at times a liability on offense because when his bat slumps Desmond doesn’t have the patience to continue to reach base. But on this evening the aggressive approach would pay off. Desmond took the third pitch he saw from JJ Putz and deposited it into the Diamondbacks bullpen in left-center field.
The evening was complete. The Nats had won and Harper ended up going 3-4 with two doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored as well as getting to once again show off his powerful throwing arm and a bit of range in centerfield. Harper is a rare talent. The type of player that has to be watched to be appreciated. The type of player who has the chance to do something amazing whenever he is on the field.