- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2015

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of Bryce Harper’s incredible two-game power surge is that, in his mind, it’s really not all that incredible.

After hitting three home runs Wednesday, he was adamant that this is how he expects himself to perform. After clobbering two more Friday night in a 9-2 win over the Atlanta Braves, he repeated the same mantra. This is not unusual for him, the home runs and the RBI and the curtain calls from the crowd. This is his standard. This is normal.

“I mean like I’ve been saying, that’s the way I need to play,” Harper said. “That’s the way that this team, we need to go about our business every single day.”

Through the Washington Nationals’ first 30 games of the season, Harper is tied for the National League lead with 10 homers and ranks third in the NL with 25 RBI. He leads the majors with 26 walks. His on-base percentage is .426.

On Friday, he became the first player in Expos/Nationals franchise history to hit five homers in a two-game span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the youngest player ever to achieve such a feat. His reaction?

“Hopefully I can hit two more tomorrow,” he said.

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After striking out in his first at-bat, Harper singled to center field in the fourth inning. He took a large turn around first base as Cameron Maybin relayed the ball Andrelton Simmons, who promptly turned and threw Harper out. In the sixth, he atoned for the baserunning blunder, hitting a fastball just over the left-center field wall. A second home run followed in the eighth, this one a no-doubter to right.

Harper now has five home runs and 10 RBI in his past eight at-bats. Those around him have long since stopped being surprised.

“Yeah, pretty good,” manager Matt Williams said of his right fielder’s performance.

“He’s a good young player,” added left fielder Jayson Werth.

Beyond the deadpanned responses, there is an understanding that Harper’s approach this season is more calm, more calculated, more mature. Williams has praised his young slugger’s ability to keep his lower half still and wait patiently for his pitch rather than lash out at it. Werth, who will turn 36 later this month, still believes the 22-year-old Harper has yet to scratch the surface of what he can do.

“You’ve got to remember how young he is. I think he’s got a long way to go,” Werth said. “He’s got big aspirations. I know us guys in here have big aspirations for him. He has a lot of pressure on him. It’s good to see him play the way he’s been playing lately and just the way he’s been going about it, too. It’s a lot of fun to watch. It’s a lot of fun to be around. That type of play can be contagious so we just need him to keep doing what he’s doing. It shouldn’t be too tough.”

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who held the Braves to five hits and two runs over seven innings Friday, put it a different way.

“Don’t touch him. You might get third-degree burns,” Gonzalez said. “That guy is on fire. He’s just fun to watch. He’s unbelievable. A show-stopper. When he goes up to bat, everybody stops what they’re doing whether eating popcorn or a hotdog. He’s out there pausing time. It’s fun to watch.”

Harper is locked in. He knows it. But he doesn’t want to talk about it. He would much rather talk about second baseman Danny Espinosa, who also hit two home runs Friday night, each from the left side of the plate that he had at one point abandoned. Or Werth, who recorded his first homer of 2015 in the fourth inning. Or the team as a whole, which has now won eight of its past 10 games and pulled back to .500 for the first time in several weeks.

Harper said it’s not about his homers, or his curtain calls.

“This whole team should be getting a curtain call,” he said, “because the way we’re playing right now, it’s a lot of fun.”

Harper would much rather talk about all of that, because in his mind, that is the story. His performance is nothing special. It’s the standard.

“I just want to go up there, try to have good ABs,” Harper repeated. “Like I said, like I’ve been saying, that’s the way I need to be. If I’m healthy, if I’m going the right way, that’s what you’re going to get out of me. That’s just how I am.”

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