Los Angeles, CA – Bryce Harper got into his first major league game Saturday night in front of a super-charged crowd of over 54,000 at Dodger Stadium and the 19-year old proved to be up to the task. With his every move being scrutinized from the moment he arrived at the ballpark, Harper went 1-3 with a double and an RBI while playing LF for the Nationals in a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.
The atmoshpere was electric for several reasons that included the 2010 overall top draft pick’s presence. Also, another Washington phenom, 2009 overall top pick Stephen Strasburg, was on the mound for the first-place Nationals. And with LA’s 3-2 victory the night before, the two teams came into the Saturday night contest tied for the best record in the National League at 14-6.
Harper batted seventh in the Washington lineup and had a four-pitch AB in the top of the second that ended the inning with a ground out to P Chad Billingsley. In the bottom of the inning, Harper fielded his first chance without incident as he hauled in a fly ball from Dodger 2B Jerry Hairston Jr.
Strasburg was dominant over seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out nine with no walks. Billingsley had a nearly identical line, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB and 6 K’s. His one mistake was allowing a line-drive homer to 1B Adam LaRoche in the top of the seventh. Later that inning, Harper got his first major league hit, a two-out double that rocketed over the head of CF Matt Kemp and bounced off the base of the wall. He was stranded at second and the Nats had a 1-0 lead.
The Dodgers evened it up with a rally in the bottom of the inning and Harper figured into the scoring play. With Hairston Jr. on 2nd (HPB) and Loney on first (E-4), C A.J. Ellis grounded a single into left field. Harper came up with the ball at medium depth and rifled a perfect throw to the plate that beat Hairston Jr., but the ball came loose and the score was tied.
The tense contest went into the ninth tied when both bullpens gave up a pair of runs. Harper drove in the go-ahead run for Washington with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1 before they tacked on another run. With the huge crowd still in the ballpark, rather than beating the LA traffic which has been the norm, the Dodgers mounted an unlikely rally that included a Juan Uribe RBI double to left, and a passed ball that allowed the tying run to score.
Harper was as advertised, showing a great approach at the plate, a rocket arm in the outfield and blazing speed on the bases.
(All photos: Steve Cummings/HotStoveHeat.com)