Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hustling out of the All-Star break

US Presswire photo
Bryce Harper hustled his way to two extra bases in the first inning last night.
MIAMI -- It got kind of lost in the shuffle of last night's 5-1 victory over the Marlins -- which was highlighted more by Jordan Zimmermann's pitching dominance and Ryan Zimmerman's continued mashing at the plate -- but the Nationals' hustle on the basepaths shouldn't go unnoticed.

It began right out of the chute with Bryce Harper, who turned a top-of-the-first bloop single to left into a double. Actually, Harper was credited only with a single, with left fielder Logan Morrison charged with an error after booting the ball.

Harper, though, should have been given the double. Just listen to what he said about his mindset as he made contact with that pitch.

"I was thinking two out of the box," he said. "I saw they were playing me deep. They bobbled it, so it was even better for me."

Harper, of course, wasn't done hustling after reaching second base. Moments later, he caught Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson napping, none of them paying attention and none of them covering third base. So he bolted.

"I just saw Hanley and Reyes talking," he said. "That was the only thing I saw. And then Johnson was rubbing his hands with the ball. So I just took off. That's it."

You don't often see that kind of play in the big leagues, either because the defensive players aren't so lackadaisical or the guy on the bases isn't so aggressive. Harper, though, didn't see what the big deal was.

"I've been doing that since I was 13 years old," he said. "It's something I look for sometimes. That's what I saw, and I just took off."

Harper may not have been impressed with his own hustle, but his teammates certainly were.

"We talk about how Harper comes in and obviously brings us a little bit of energy," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "That baserunning play he made in the first inning kind of sparked my mind a little bit. I thought: 'Hey, would I have done that?' And then I was just a little bit more alert throughout the game."

That was especially obvious with one out in the top of the sixth, as Desmond stood on second base with Adam LaRoche on third and Jesus Flores at the plate.

Flores lofted a little looper to shallow left field. LaRoche held up at third base, thinking he might need to tag up if the ball was caught. Desmond, though, immediately took off from second, sending the ball would fall in for a hit and thus giving him a chance to score.

"I saw the left fielder was deep," he said. "I knew there was no chance he was going to get it. I didn't panic, but I was a little worried when Rochie came back and tagged up. I was like: 'What's going on? Am I missing something?' I just knew the outfielder was back."

Both guys did wind up scoring, though Desmond very nearly lapped LaRoche coming around third and crossed the plate just steps behind him.

"I could've easily caught him," Desmond said. "I was yelling: 'Go! Go! Go!'"

Those two runs weren't the difference in the game; the Nationals already led 3-0 at the time. But they did help keep their energy level up at a time when it easily could have dropped.

The Marlins certainly looked sluggish in their first game back from the All-Star break. The Nationals looked anything but.

"When you come back from the All-Star break, it's like starting the season new," Desmond said. "You want to know how you feel. You want to make sure you're the same way you were when you left. I think to get out and have Bryce make that heads-up play in the first inning, it kind of told everybody: 'Hey, we're back. We're all right. Same game, same players.' It kind of eased my mind a little bit."

39 comments:

NatsJack in Florida said...

The Harper play in the 1st wound up all the Fish fans around me to the point of them booing both Hanley and Jose for the rest of the game.

UnkyD said...

It just keeps getting Funner!!!

NatsJack in Florida said...

Pudge is going to be at the pre-game ceremony for some reason tonite. I'll tweet some pics.

sm13 said...

A tale of 2 teams. One that is fighting for the division crown and the other already playing out the string. And 2 managers. One has his team playing at 120% and the other whose players could care less.

sm13 said...

Give Pudge a big cheer for us, NatsJack!

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Two more wins in this series and the Fish are buried. Finish them!

sm13 said...

Phillies are 15 back. It makes me smile to say that.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

and we like seeing it, sm.

#4 said...

When the team leaders were guys like Dunn and Willingham, these are types of plays that never would have been made. The energy with which you play the game is crucial. It's why despite his mediocre stats and injury, I still like having Werth on this ball club.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Just a thought about Harper, off-topic, but I wonder what it will be like for him in a couple of years, when, probably for the first time in his life, he's not the youngest player on the team. He'll adjust, I'm sure. I wonder if that's something Chipper recognized in Bryce.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Agreed, #4.
"Baseball is a game of relentless pressure."
--Ty Cobb


"Pressure? I'm the one who applies the pressure."
--Chili Palmer

Doc said...

Harps and Desi---taking turns being the heart of the Nats!

baseballswami said...

I think that most teams have a kind of team style or identity. I would love it if part of our style of play was flat out hustle and aggressive base running. That could not have happened before. When you are 19 and veterans are being taught a lesson by you- that is awesome. I love the energetic style. It's exciting to watch and probably tiring to defend against.

Swift Eagle said...

Bryce's play is another example of something stats can't measure...and right before that he ended up on 2nd base after hitting a single, his rep as an aggressive base runner caused the error by the left fielder...with help from the lousy outfield grass

SonnyG10 said...

I love it. Bryce has a one speed transmission...FULL SPEED AHEAD!!!

JayB said...

Harper is the best part of a great season so far. I have said this many times but he is a throw back to a different era of baseball. His base running is a mix of Rose and Roberto Clemente. At age 19 he has the highest baseball IQ in the game today.

Nobody plays harder.....and smarter...yes he takes risks and he makes outs because of it at times....but he is always thinking and he never seems to make the stupid out (3rd at 3B) type of out. Amazing to watch.

Harper is going to change how a generation views and plays baseball.

Theophilus T. S. said...

"Speed kills." Eventually, inevitably, it breaks the defense down. The Nats have five guys (Harper, Desmond, Espinosa, Werth, Lombardozzi), marginally six (Zimmerman) who can drive defenders to drink. There's a balancing point where risk becomes unnecessary, if the offense is capable of putting up six or more a game. But early in the game, e.g., Harper last night, against Hamels, it sets the tone for the whole evening. After that, every Marlin knew that every pickup in the outfield was at risk of giving up the extra base -- confirmed by Desmond in the sixth. I think Harper is a natural, career #2 hitter.

baseballswami said...

I agree that the always alert style of play gives defenders the yips. They end up feeling pressure and rushing. But, why has it taken a 19 yr old to show up the lollygagging. When one extra base can mean the game, why wouldn't you exploit that?

JayB said...

Harper has had the single largest impact on the approach of the the team. He makes everyone including Zimm better players. Lombo's take out slide to break up the DB and create an additional run was directly born from Harper's approach to the game.

Theophilus T. S. said...

JayB --

Long time, no see. WB.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Swami --

I don't see it as lollygagging. It's conventional station-to-station baseball. Dunn, W'ham, Pudge weren't going anywhere fast. Subtract those guys and add Harper, at 225# one of the 2-3 fastest guys in the league; add Desmond hitting for average and power (hard to take the extra base when you're not hitting); add Lombardozzi getting on. Add a pitching staff that always keeps the team in the game, gives the offense the opportunity to take chances without worrying that, by their next at bat, they're going to be four runs in the hole.

Sunderland said...

Another play that I thought was very important in terms of setting the tone was Hanley's first at bat. He saw Harper hustle and take second, then third, the inning before. So he opens the bottom of the second with a single to left and hustles right out of the box. He's thinking "OK Nats, two can play that way" and he rounds first and steams towards second. Lombardozzi hustled to the ball, fielded it cleanly, and threw a strike to Espinosa, who tagged out the sliding Ramirez. Instead of a runner in scoring position and nobody out, we had one out bases empty. And when the next batter Ruggiano dropped in a single, instead of a run or a rally, they just had a guy on base with one out. Two can indeed play that game, but yesterday, we played it a whole lot better.

JayB said...

been here all along...enjoying the ride......tough to think of Njack enjoying the Flow ride....but hey a happy b to him....

Things look very good right now....thus I just enjoy the games....we stop hitting and I am going to get back on the Nady, Roger, DeRosa whipping post.

baseballswami said...

Fair enough, jb. You have to admit the production off the bench is better this year, though.

Feel Wood said...

JayB said...
Things look very good right now....thus I just enjoy the games....we stop hitting and I am going to get back on the Nady, Roger, DeRosa whipping post.


Haters gotta hate.

MicheleS said...

Aww.. it's good to see JayB enjoying himself even for a second. Don't worry, IF the bench goes into the pooper, we fully expect you to remind Rizzo that he was an utter failure at building a bench.

Swami, the Lollygagging (and to Theo) totally agree. Let's see, any one notice the improvement in one Jason Heywerd after he took a nap on Harper? What about COLBERT (I love that NatsLady)? Did you see his comments about the respect he has now for a certain 19 yr old and how it woke him up.? Or how about Chipper and his man crush on Bryce? And what about the Fans in Toronto and Boston that applauded (and maybe even cheered) our young crop of players (all of them, not just Bryce).

We are very fortunate that we don't have the Derelicts on our team anymore. No more temper tantrums in the OF (confined to the locker room cement walls). That in interviews they are as quotable as Crash Davis (with a hint once in awhile of their true personalities - okay, except GIO).

I plan on enjoying this ride for as long as it lasts (and my do I see it lasting a good long while). I think I will be having fish tonight for dinner. Anyone care to join me?

peric said...

And that's why I go against FP Sant'Angelo, Mark, Kolko, and Kilgore and say Harper is my first half MVP. Both he and Strasburg.

Not because of their numbers and Desmond's are kind of a recent occurrence relatively speaking but because of the way they affect the
rest of their sides of the team. Nineteen years old!! Desmond may be the
captain FP but who is leading by example? More than Harper? No one.
He makes mistakes as any 19 year old rookie will and the other team ends up paying for it ... as Livan Hernandez will tell you.

Still, I do often think he should have stayed longer in the minors ... not because he wasn't major league ready but because he wasn't HOF-ready.
I wanted a Ted Williams with even more hustle and desire to come out of that gate. A hustler and the ultimate masher combined. Making Trout look like a chump.

But it does seem likely that could still happen under the tutelage of Davey Johnson. Hopefully, this is what Johnson sees and he will stay in the captain's chair long enough to see it to fruition.

Harper will only get better as the season progresses as will that other hours JZimmnn. I expect we'll see the two of them leading the team from here on out.

peric said...

Harper has had the single largest impact on the approach of the the team. He makes everyone including Zimm better players. Lombo's take out slide to break up the DB and create an additional run was directly born from Harper's approach to the game.

Totally, 100 percent, violently AGREE! As they say. Best said by JayB a former player.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Sunderland, good point on Hanley trying to take a hustle double, and just running his team out of an inning. Highlights yet again that it's not just hustle, alone.

Good to see your name in here again, too!

NatsLady said...

I love this quote:

You want to make sure you're the same way you were when you left. I think to get out and have Bryce make that heads-up play in the first inning, it kind of told everybody: 'Hey, we're back. We're all right. Same game, same players.' It kind of eased my mind a little bit."

It's like when I visit my family (who are not near). I get back with them, talking to them, and I remember how much I love them, love being with them...

Nattering Nat said...

I'm sure you all noticed, during the All-Star Game, that whenever the camera panned the NL dugout, there was Bryce to our left of Chipper, chatting away--or actually, Chipper was usually the one chatting. And they also showed Harper talking to Brett before the game. Plus, his (new) teammates started treating him like a kid brother right away.

Gotta love someone who respects the game and its history and has an infectious spirit.

BTW, I have posted anonymously on here in the past, you all don't know me, but I think MZ is the most insightful person covering the Nats and the bloggers here on the whole by far the most informed, enthusiastic and not mindlessly hostile, so you'll be hearing more from me, for better or worse, since I'm a season ticket holder and have only been following the Nats since the late 50s, waiting for a year like this....

rabbit34 said...

The Phillies are fifteen back. That makes me smile too. Especially when the 15 games are behind the Nationals!!!

SonnyG10 said...

Nattering Nat, welcome to the family and thanks for the handle to know you by.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Rabbit ftw!

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...

Agree with MicheleS, nice to see JayB on here enjoying himself. Also nice to see Sunderland back, and to welcome Nattering Nat.

On a game note, just watched the middle innings, which I'd missed in real time due to cat-sitting duties. Also replayed the Harper base steal for my husband, who didn't see that in real time. We rewound and freeze-framed it a few times. Ah, the simple pleasures of baseball. First there's the camera shot of Harper's eyes, evidently zeroing in on the opportunity. Then there's the shot of the duo's casual infield chit-chat, totally unaware of the embarrassing fate that awaited them. And we can't forget the pitcher, casually holding the ball and looking down. But I think my most favorite part of all was when they showed Ozzie's face. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. Now, *that* was funny. :-)

Re. the Phillies, I very much enjoyed this WaPo graphic the other day.

baseballswami said...

I have just spent the better part of a week in Philly country and the vibe is really strange.Still lots of denial, some anger, mostly disbelief. It's hard to enjoy it because it's just so pathetic. People who previously liked to engage in a spirited debate are just beaten. They don't handle losing well here. Can't wait to get back to live games and coverage and my team. My elderly mom is glazing over at all my nats talk. Tonight it's just the phone for me- creative posting welcome!

Kevin Rusch said...

"Agreed, #4.
"Baseball is a game of relentless pressure."
--Ty Cobb


"Pressure? I'm the one who applies the pressure."
--Chili Palmer "

-------

I am the one who knocks.
-- Walter White

Joe Seamhead said...

I started to feel just a tinge of simpathy for some of the Phans after reading their blog this morning, but I got over it pretty quickly. Stew, you chumps, stew. The vile that every single poster is spitting out against their team is just appalling. They don't deserve a winning team, IMHO.

Post a Comment