New leadoff man Bryce Harper just wants to hit

That’s why, four hours before Tuesday night’s 12-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was out on the field at Nationals Park, taking early batting practice. Taking hack after hack after hack in the bright D.C. sunshine, for no other reason than he just wanted to knock the ever-loving snot out of the baseball.

“Just hit some homers,” said Harper when asked what the goal of his rare early BP session was.nfl jerseys cheap authentic “Get some balls over the plate and do some damage. BP is a good spot to get out there and, when you’re not swinging the bat as much, try to stay as effective as you can. Just feel the ball hitting the barrel. I was trying to hit the ball as far as I could.”69

Then he went out against the Pirates and, facing starter Chad Kuhl in the fifth inning, hit the ball as far as he could. To be exact, Harper’s three-run bomb to left-center traveled 416 feet, which, when it comes to opposite-field shots, is roughly equivalent to a country mile. It was a welcome sight for Harper, who lately had been struggling to hit the ball so much as a country meter.

After a white-hot start to the season — through Washington’s first 17 games, he was hitting .315 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs — the former MVP had gone blue cold. Entering Tuesday, he was mired in a 5-for-35 slump and had gone 12 games without an extra-base hit, the longest such drought of his career. That’s not to say he wasn’t getting on base.

Entering Tuesday, Harper — slump and all — was leading the National League with a .458 on-base percentage. Because that’s what happens when you get walked more frequently than a canine with a bladder problem. He’d received 38 free passes in 29 games, by far the most in the majors. He was on pace to draw 212 walks, the second-highest single-season total ever behind Barry Bonds (232 in 2004). He had been walked intentionally six times in his past six games, becoming the first player with six purposeful passes over a six-game stretch since … Bryce Harper.

Perhaps you recall the last time Harper hosted his own walk-a-thon. custom nfl jerseys cheap The year was 2016, and the cluster in question was centered around a four-game May set at Wrigley Field. It was the infamous series wherein Cubs pitchers walked him an unfathomable 13 times. In the finale alone he drew six free passes, three of which were intentional. That series (perhaps combined with some unpublicized health issues) helped send Harper, who at the time was the reigning MVP, into a tailspin from which he never recovered. He grew impatient. He started chasing pitches out of the strike zone. He tried to do too much. As a result, he ended up doing very little.