Oct 6, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielderBryce Harper
(34) hits a home run during the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants in game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The game’s greatest players tend to have a flare for the dramatic, and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is no exception.
Ever since Harper made his big league debut in 2012, drama has always surrounded the player that Sports Illustrated declared to be “Baseball’s Lebron James” at just 16 years old.
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Sure, there has been some negative drama along the way. But when it comes to excitement, Harper never disappoints, as he showed in Game 3 of the NLDS.
While the story of the day was undoubtedly the dominant performance by Nationals starter Doug Fister, Washington probably wouldn’t have won the game and saved their season had it not been for Harper. While Fister was dealing like an ace on the mound, Harper was contributing like an All-Star in the outfield and in the batters box.
“Probably the best catch I’ve seen him make all year, to be honest with you,” center fielder Denard Span told the Washington Post. “…He had no fear. He went back and kept his eye on the ball and made an unbelievable play.”
Two days after making a great cutoff throw from left field to prevent a run from scoring in Saturday’s Game 2 loss to the Giants, Harper’s defense once again played a major role Monday as the left fielder made two excellent plays.
In a game between two aces — Fister and Giants starter Maddison Bumgarner — one run can be the difference between a win and a loss. And if it weren’t for Harper, the Giants would’ve scored a few runs in the bottom of the second.
With runners on first and second and only one out, Brandon Crawford crushed the ball towards the wall in left-center field. With the sun right in his eyes, Harper ran towards the warning track, leaped up, and made the catch against the wall, preventing two runs from scoring.
As great as that play was, Harper wasn’t finished.
With one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the seventh inning, Travis Ishikawa hit a blooper into left-center field. For a second it looked like the ball would drop for an RBI single, but Harper got a great jump on it and made a terrific diving catch to rob Ishakawa of a hit and keep the run from scoring.
But as good as Harper was in the field, perhaps the most impressive part of his performance Monday night was the towering home run he hit in the top of the ninth. Much like the one he hit at Nationals Park in Game 1, Harper’s blast left the yard in a hurry and nearly landed in McCovey Cove, giving the Nationals an important insurance run in a must-win game.
Injuries may have slowed Harper in the regular season, but the 21-year-old outfielder could be poised to shine in the playoffs. While he’s struggled a bit with the bat in the NLDS, he already has two monster home runs and has provided plenty of excitement in the outfield.
The Nationals still have to win two games in a row against the Giants if they want to advance to the NLCS. But if the team achieves the impossible and plays deep into October, it’s safe to say that Bryce Harper will be a big reason why.