Is Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper Still Hustling?

By James Williams
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals were down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning to the New York Mets. Earlier in the frame, pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi had homered, as it looked like the Nats were mounting a comeback. Denard Span and Ryan  Zimmerman reached base on singles and with two outs and two on, it was Bryce Harper time.

While Harper took swings in the on-deck circle, the Mets took out starter Dillion Gee in favor of Scott Rice, their left -handed specialist.

“Bright lights Bryce Harper,” the kid from Las Vegas, lives for moments like these: the game on the line, the crowd standing and the spotlight on. Cue Harper hitting the game-winning home run, the crowd going wild, and the Nationals dugout jumping with joy.

Well, what really happened was that Harper had worked Rice into a hitter’s count when he shot a screaming grounder to second, and despite the game hanging in the balance, he jogged to first base.

Meanwhile, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy juggled the ball. As Harper jogged down the line, he saw what was happening in front of him. He seemed stunned, but he was doomed to make the final out of the inning by the time he realized his mistake. The Mets would hold on and win the game 3-2.

So if Harper had busted it down the line, he might well have beat the hit out, or at the very least made it look close. Over in the on-deck circle, Jayson Werth could only look skyward and toss his bat to the dugout.

Harper, who turns singles into doubles, steals home, runs into walls and who has clearly built his reputation on being the second coming of “Charlie Hustle,” jogs to first with the game on the line? What’s up with that?

Bench coach Randy Knorr, who was subbing for an ill Davey Johnson, offered these post-game comments to the media in his press conference:

“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough is he gets frustrated. He’s got a lot going on. It’s hard for me to say … (But it’s) something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually, we’re just going to have to take him out of the game.”

Truth be told, Harper has been a big reason why the Nationals are still in the race. As Knorr said in the postgame press conference, he gets frustrated like all of us do, and he remains hard on himself wanting only his best in each game.

Harper has shown many times that when he makes a mistake, he seldom makes it twice. My guess is that the same will be the case when he takes the field tonight against the Mets.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning, producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and be part of his Google+ group.

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