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Posted at 10:53 PM ET, 03/10/2011

An action-packed three innings for Bryce Harper

By Adam Kilgore
Morning brushback

Bryce Harper entered the Nationals' 6-5 loss to the Astros tonight as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the seventh inning, and during his brief time on the field he left more fingerprints on the game than probably any other player. He made a running catch at the wall. He stretched a routine single into a double. And he threw away a chance to send the game into extra innings.

Let's go one play at a time. With two outs in the seventh, the score tied and a runner on first, Matt Downs lashed a Cole Kimball pitch to right. Harper sprinted back to the warning track and made a running, over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning and keep the game tied.

Harper gave credit for the catch to Rick Ankiel, who from center fielder screamed, "Wall! Wall! You got room!" as Harper drifted back. Harper's relative inexperience in the outfield - he was a catcher growing up - means that he doesn't yet have total comfort with some of the nuances, such as dealing with the fence.

"It was a little scary going toward to the wall," Harper said. "To have Ank helping me out from center field was huge."

Harper came up third in the next inning and dumped a base hit into left field, his fifth hit in seven at-bats. It seemed like a normal single. The left fielder fielded the ball casually, but not lazily.

Harper treated the flare like anything but a normal single. He sprinted hellbent for leather to first and made a wide turn. And he never stopped. He bolted for second, showing off above-average speed, and slid in hard a step ahead of the throw. There really aren't any breathtaking moments on March 10, but this was breathtaking. The crowd stood and cheered.

"Coming out of the box, you should think 'three' on everything," Harper said. "I run the bases hard. That's my game."

"He just ran hard out of the box," Riggleman said. "It's what you teach. It goes in one ear and out the other with some players at times. But that's why you run hard out of the box, because you round the base and you can make a decision. If you jog to first, there's no decision to make."

The most impressive thing wasn't the clich├ęd superlatives about grit and hustle, although they were present, too. Rather, it was Harper's athleticism, which allowed him to take the extra base.

"He has the skills to do it," Riggleman said. "Not everybody can do it, because not everybody can make the turn that athletically and keep their speed while rounding the base. Some guys would want to do it, but can't do it. Other guys want to do it, but choose not to."

By the way: The double made Harper 6 for 16 on the spring, good for a .375 average.

But Harper's night ended with a blemish. In the ninth, with a runner on first and one out, Brian Dopirak smoked a pitch from Atahualpa Severino into the right field corner. Harper gave chase and corralled the ball in time to hold the runner at third. Only when Harper fired the ball to the infield, his throw sailed wide of both cutoff men and bounded through the infield, allowing the winning run to scamper home and the Astros to walk off with a win.

"I threw right a little bit and lost the game," Harper said. "Get the next one."

After another question, Harper clarified his intent - he was trying hit the cutoff man, he just misfired.

"I wasn't trying to throw home," Harper said. "I don't have that good of an arm."

FROM THE POST

Okay, everyone, this is a big one. Sheinin's monster magazine profile of Bryce Harper hit the web today. It's 5,000 words, and every last one is worth reading.

Drew Storen is working on his fastball command with a new maturity in his second spring training with the Nationals.

By Adam Kilgore  | March 10, 2011; 10:53 PM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tom Gorzelanny takes positives out of rough first outing
Next: Bryce Harper will survive cuts today

Comments

Poor McPoop. Harrisburg is only an hour or so away from his beloved Natty Boh land. Strasburg and Harper could be there at the exact same time? Two mega-prodigies and both on the "Natinals".

The Birds? They know when they've been licked; I heard they're headed for Vegas, Bryce Harper's hometown. Mebbe if they're lucky they'll find a real owner and some great prospects. Meanwhile, here come those former beleaguered underdog "Natinals" to pee on your Ori'holes front door.

Posted by: periculum | March 10, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Sheinin's mag piece is well worth reading. May Bryce Harper stay healthy in mind and body. And may he take the Nats to the post-season promised land.

Posted by: nats24 | March 11, 2011 1:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm actually going to hold off and read the Harper feature in print on Sunday - buying the paper for the first time in years for that article.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 11, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

"Okay, everyone, this is a big one. Sheinin's monster magazine profile of Bryce Harper hit the web today. It's 5,000 words, and every last one is worth reading."

5,000 words. Months in the making. Massively hyped. And only 89 words into it, the first typo. No knock on Sheinin, but Washington Post editorial standards absolutely suck. Did anyone other than Sheinin even look at this before it hit print?

Posted by: FeelWood | March 11, 2011 8:15 AM | Report abuse

My lord, this kid will spend the next 4 months crushing A and AA pitching. All he needs to do is learn the postion, take some nasty bus-rides, sack out in Motel 8's, eat PB&J three times a day and we shall see Sir Harper in the "show" by August. Hey, one can dream!

BTW, ain't it time that the brain trust part ways w/Mock, and Severino nothing is chnaging with these guys. The biggest travesty will be Ross Detwiller and Chad Gaudan will be stuck in the Syracuse do-loop becuase Pants went out and signed a Pirate reject.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 11, 2011 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Oh man I loved sitting down with my cup of joe, opening up the WaPo Sports page (since I'm in MD and all) and seeing the Post DID ANOTHER FEATURE STORY ON THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES.

Gotta love the Post finally realizing where their bread is buttered.

Of course I'm sure Natinals fans are wetting their diapers over the story. Can't imagine how much they'll wet their diapers when the Natinals skip town, again, in a few years and the abandoned Natinals Park is turned into the new home of DC United.

Orioles WIN 100+ games this year.

Natinals LOSE 120+ games this year.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | March 11, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

"The biggest travesty will be Ross Detwiller and Chad Gaudan will be stuck in the Syracuse do-loop becuase Pants went out and signed a Pirate reject."

Well first, the Pirates blogs themselves predicted that Tracy would wreck Gorzelanny's arm making him go 200 IP in 2007. He had never come close before in his career and he was their top pitching prospect.

Second, the guy basically rescued the Cubs when Zambrano was injured, or was suspended. The Cubs fans I talk to weren't unhappy with what he gave their team.

Yes, Gorzelanny may be a risk injury-wise because he came up in an idiot organization too cheap to hire a good manager and GM. But he has recovered all of his velocity and made progress in his pitching last year ... to the point where for the first half of the season Gorzelanny was the Cub's ace. When Zambrano returned he went back to the bullpen. Later they let him start again and he wasn't as effective. Still more effective than any Nats starter with 11 quality starts in 23 total.

Name ONE Nats starter other than Livo that had more than 12 and you come up solely with Lannan.

People need to get their facts straight. Gaudin? What's his track record? Detiwler? If Gorzelanny pitches well enough (and since he is left-handed) I think you'll see him and Detwiler as well. Jordan Zimmermann. Its time for the Nats to go young and not rely on Rockies rejects (Marquis was left off their playoff roster and he really was gangbusters last year?) and Livo who's luck (second lowest velocity in the majors in 2010) and multi-speed curves continue to serve ... but the bullpen is where he might end up.

Posted by: periculum | March 11, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Chico Harlan reports!

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/blog-post/2011/03/japan_earthquake_and_tsunami_l.html#more?hpid=topnews

I wish it were under better circumstances.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 11, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

FeelWood you are amazing how you search for typos and grammar mistakes. Your English teacher must have loved you.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 11, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Peri, Gaudin has a track record, although the last two years have been poor. Still I believe he can be this years 'Batista' - performing well in long relief and spot starting, maybe even scoring a date with Ms. Kentucky. And for Marquis, you can't hammer him about his performance last year; before he was hurt he was a reliable horse, although not an ace. He should be counted on this year to give a typical year.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 11, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Gosh, I love the NATS & NATS fan, at least we don't disrespect other teams as some other team fan's do (*ahem* team in MD)on their news website. This is Washington Post and Nationals are Washington team. Can't wait for OD (19 days!) & tix on hand. Let's go NATS!

Posted by: mink23 | March 11, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

FeelWood you are amazing how you search for typos and grammar mistakes. Your English teacher must have loved you.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 11, 2011 10:13 AM |
------------------------------------------

If only I did have to search for them. But in the Post, I never do. They just hit me right in the face. Like this latest one, only 89 words in. It wasn't a total WTF? moment like much of Kilgore's writing, but still. You mean the Post writers and editors can't even go a paragraph without losing focus and messing something up? After all, writing IS their job. They should have a little more pride in their craft.

Posted by: FeelWood | March 11, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

First as a person who lived through the events of the 1989 SF earthquake, I hope Chico and all the sailors who were underway at this moment stays safe.

No on to happy news:

Can someone tell me/us when Harpers clock date is? Also, I am starting to fall in love with the Bernie/Espy top of the order one two punch.

Posted by: hansenjo | March 11, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

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