Bryce Harper did not have a good Saturday. In the Washington Nationals’ 5-3, 14-inning loss to the New York Yankees, the 19-year-old was 0-for-7 with five strikeouts. Against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte, Harper was helpless. He saw 14 pitches in four at-bats, swung and missed at seven of them and didn’t make contact until he he sent pitch No. 14 into Curtis Granderson’s glove in center field in the seventh inning.
Harper declined to talk to reporters after the game, saying only “I don’t want to talk.” But in a quiet, mostly empty clubhouse Sunday morning, Harper talked about his most frustrating day as a major leaguer.
“Me and (second baseman Danny Espinosa) were talking after the game about (Pettitte) and, I just couldn’t pick anything up, really,” Harper said. “I just was chasing everything he was throwing. I don’t know. I was all over the place yesterday. I don’t know if it was that kind of game or what, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a game like that in my life.”
Harper has now played 43 games in the major leagues this season. In just 13 of them has he been without a hit and in only seven has he failed to reach base at least once. Saturday was one of those days.
The way things were going, Harper said in the later innings he thought it was best for him to just focus on his play in the outfield in that game and make sure he didn’t falter there.
“All I was thinking was, ‘Hopefully I can make some plays in the outfield.’” Harper said, making good on that hope with a diving catch to end the 13th inning.
“That was the only thing I was thinking. You know, 0-for-7, five punches. After your third punch you’re thinking ‘Hopefully I can make some plays in the outfield and not worry about my ABs anymore.’ Just get ‘em tomorrow.”
Several veteran players approached Harper after the game to offer some reassurance that every single one of them has been in his shoes.
Jayson Werth, whom Harper has credited as one of his most important influences since getting to the major leagues, pulled him aside and told him “Hey, it took me until my second year to get five Ks in one game*. You beat me on that one.”
Harper could only laugh.
“It’s just the game of baseball,” he said. You can go 0-for-7 and have five punches and then the next day you’re 4-for-4. Just one of those days you’ve got to tip your cap to a Hall of Famer like (Pettitte). That’s all you can do.”
*One note: Werth might have just been trying to make Harper feel better since, as far as I can tell, Werth has actually never struck out five times in a game.