Bryce Harper: 'I've never struggled like this in my life'

Chris Lingebach
June 22, 2018 - 4:47 pm
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"I've never struggled like this in my life," Bryce Harper told MASN analysts Ray Knight and Dan Kolko after sparking a game-winning rally Thursday night.

The 25-year-old slugger is in the midst of the worst slump of his career, averaging .213 at the plate – 72 games into the final season before he hits free agency – and just .207 on balls in play. His strikeout percentage of 22.6 is the highest it's climbed since 2014, the least productive season of his career, which was mired by injuries and limited to 100 games.

But Harper may have stumbled into the slump-buster that's been eluding him in Thursday's 4-2 win over the Orioles. In four plate appearances, he went 1-for-1 with two walks and a sacrifice fly, and, with the game tied 2-2, doubled to lead off the bottom of the eighth, sparking a decisive two-run rally.

"I think the past month it's been tough, of course, but my swing's felt great," Harper told MASN afterward. "I think for me, it's just more of getting a pitch over the plate and not chasing. I've chased a lot of pitcher's pitches in the past couple weeks and it's hurt me. I need to take my walks and keep going.

"When I'm doing that, I'm one of the best in baseball. This team needs me to do that each night. It was a lot of fun going out there tonight, and getting on base for my guys and driving in a run of course, and winning a ballgame. You always want to get out there and do the things you can to help your team win and I was able to do that tonight."

Knight took a moment to applaud Harper for how he's responded to the adversity, by continuing to show up early and act professionally.

"You know that you're gonna bust out of this thing," Knight said, "And you are one of the top three or four talents in this game. I'm just proud of the way that you've responded through this and I'm glad that you're starting to feel it. And you have hit some balls hard."

"People talk about it – balls up the middle, bullets to first – and those things weigh on you, because you want to hit so bad," he said, eliciting a bashful smirk from Harper. "You just keep swinging the bat, big man. I know it's all gonna come around for 'ya."

"I appreciate that, Ray. That means a lot," Harper said. "Every day is a new day, and this clubhouse, we've got a great group of guys. If one guy doesn't do it, the other guy does. And our staff and our coaches in there, if that's Davey or Chip or K-Long, I mean these guys come to the field every single day ready to work and that's how you got to do it."

"Definitely, you get into funks sometimes and I've never struggled like this in my life," Harper admitted. "It's definitely a stepping stone to something great and I'm excited to see what I can do in the next couple weeks.

"We've got a long season to go and that's what it's all about: winning ballgames, getting to where we need to go and being a team. I'm getting chills right now thinking about it. We're a great time. We've got a great environment. I'm excited to make a run and get into the playoffs, and do the things we need to do to win a trophy."

Kolko turned the conversation to Nats manager Dave Martinez, who's shown unwavering support for Harper by keeping him near the top of the order throughout his prolonged slump.

"I think as a team, he has confidence in everybody in that clubhouse," Harper said. "And you know me, Kolko. I have the most confidence in myself than anybody in the world. Going in every single day and having a manager that, his door is wide-open for us for any guy that goes in there. It's a lot of fun. I've always said it the past couple weeks, or even the past couple months, I'm having a blast.

"I mean, I might be struggling a little bit, but I'm having a blast going out and playing for this guy every single day. I want to run through a brick wall for him because he's that type of manager. He's got our backs and he's all about family. He's all about us this clubhouse being a family and loving on each other and doing things we can to help win ballgames no matter what. I couldn't ask for a better manager. I mean, the guy's unbelievable."

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