WASHINGTON – Bryce Harper hit the ball to the mound, jogged to first base and took a right turn to the dugout before getting halfway down the basepath.
That would be his final play in the Washington Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
First-year manager Matt Williams will tolerate physical miscues, such as the error that provided St. Louis three unearned runs, but he won’t take the nonchalance that the normally aggressive Harper displayed in his sixth-inning jog.
“Lack of hustle. That’s why he came out of the game,” Williams said. “He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times.”
Now in his third season, the 21-year-old Harper is one of Washington’s brightest lights and already a two-time All-Star. The outfielder once ran into a wall in the relentless pursuit of a fly ball, but on this day Harper was left explaining his casual approach on a comebacker.
“I respect what he did,” Harper said of Williams’ decision. “That’s part of the game.”
Harper was replaced by Kevin Frandsen, who entered as Washington’s left fielder in the seventh and assumed Harper’s position as the second batter in the lineup.
In the ninth inning, Frandsen came to the plate with runners on second and third with one out and Washington trailing 4-2. He drove in a run with a groundout before Jayson Werth struck out on three pitches against Trevor Rosenthal, who earned his fifth save.
“Kevin Frandsen put on a nice ‘AB’ against Rosenthal,” Williams said, “but (Harper’s) spot came up with the ability to win the game. And that’s a shame for his teammates.”
Said Harper: “Man, that’s tough to watch, not being able to be up there in that situation. It’s something that I thrive on and I want to be in. You know, it’s in the past and there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Cubs 8, Reds 4
In Chicago, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo hit two-run homers, Mike Olt added a solo shot and the Chicago Cubs ended a five-game losing streak, beating the Reds.
Brewers 8, Pirates 7
In Pittsburgh, Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent Milwaukee past the Pirates.
Braves 7, Mets 5
In New York, Jordan Walden got the final out with the bases loaded after Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled star closer Craig Kimbrel, and the Braves held off New York.
Dodgers 8, D-Backs 6
In Los Angeles, Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer and the Dodgers rallied from an early four-run deficit to beat Arizona.
Rockies 3, Phillies 1
In Denver, Jordan Lyles pitched effectively into the eighth inning and Justin Morneau hit a two-run homer to lead Colorado.
Padres 3, Giants 1
In San Diego. Eric Stults and three relievers combined on a four-hitter and Everth Cabrera hit a go-ahead triple to lead the Padres.
The Giants lost their third straight game and have scored only three runs in their last 28 innings.
Marlins 7, Mariners 0
In Miami, Henderson Alvarez won for the first time since his no-hitter to end the 2013 season, pitching a two-hitter to help the Marlins beat Seattle.