On this date in 2012, Bryce Harper debuted for the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium
Four years ago today, the Washington Nationals called up the prospect that everyone was waiting to see. 19-year-old Bryce Harper, who was taken with the top pick in the draft in 2010, officially made his Major League debut on Dodger Stadium. On the mound for the Nats that night was another former number one pick, Stephen Strasburg.
The first pitcher that Harper faced that night was Los Angeles Dodgers’ right-hander, Chad Billingsley (11-11, 4.21 ERA in 2012). In his first two at-bats, Harper grounded out to Billingsley in the second and flew out to left in the fifth.
This game was a pitchers’ duel between Billingsley and Strasburg that was scoreless through the first six innings. Then, in the seventh, the Washington Nationals got on the board first when Adam LaRoche led off the inning with a solo home run to right. Later in the inning, Harper picked up his first Major League hit a double to the wall in center field.
However, Los Angeles would get that run back in the bottom of the inning. Strasburg hit Jerry Hairston Jr and Danny Espinosa made an error that allowed James Loney to reach base. Two batters later, A.J. Ellis tied the game with a base hit to left. Harper made a great throw to the plate to get Hairston, but Wilson Ramos could not hang onto the ball.
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Even though it was in a no-decision, it was a great outing by Strasburg. He went seven innings, gave up one run on five hits, struck out nine, and walked none on 101 pitches (72 strikes).
The 19-year-old Harper would provide his contribution to the scoring in the top of the ninth when he drove in Rick Ankiel with a sacrifice fly to put the Nationals up 2-1. Ramos would single in another run to put Washington up 3-1, but that would end up not being enough to get the win.
With Henry Rodriguez on to close it out in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers ended up tying the game on a ground-rule double by Juan Uribe and on a wild pitch by Rodriguez that allowed Uribe to score. The Dodgers would end up winning the game in the bottom of the tenth on a walk-off solo home run by Matt Kemp against Tom Gorzelanny.
Now, four years later, Harper has emerged into arguably the best power hitter in the game. People may have expected greatness once Harper was drafted, but even at the age of 23, he is even surpassing the expectations of some. It’s good to look back and see the maturation of Harper from a 19-year-old rookie to a baseball superstar today.