Check for Bryce Harper’s ball behind the right-field bleachers. Look for it in the stadium alley. Search for it in the Washington Channel. Go retrieve it all the way in Arlington. Just don’t think you’re going to find it inside Nationals Park.
When Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. hung a 3-1 curveball in the ever-so-sweet zone with a runner on and the Nationals down 3-1 in the eighth inning of Game 2 in the NLDS, Harper’s bat found it perfectly. He crushed it into oblivion for a game-tying two-run home run that resuscitated the Nationals’ offense and eventually led to their 6-3 victory that tied up the series at one.
His titanic shot sent the crowd into a frenzy and brought out Harper’s magnetic personality—and coiffure—we’ve all come to enjoy. Steely-eyed and self-assured, Harper then turned his bat on his hand, and as he began walking toward first base, he flipped it with gusto.
Harper wasn’t done flipping things. Upon rounding the bases to the rousing cheers of Washington fans—who just an inning earlier thought their team was good as defunct—catcher José Lobatón removed Harper’s helmet with care to allow his rambunctious mane to flip as well.
You may be thinking, sure, we get it, Harper has hair. I have hair. What’s the big deal? To which I would say that your judgment on the distinction between just “hair” and “Harper’s hair” is extremely impaired. Harper’s luscious locks are as much a part of the Bryce Harper Experience as his bat is. “I try to be as calm as I can during the game, but as soon as I hit that homer, I just let it all out,” Harper said postgame.
Harper’s shot was only part of what brought back the Nats’ bats on a Saturday night when the series was nearly on the line. Between Game 1 and the first seven innings of Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cubs, the Nationals totaled only four hits and one run in 16 innings. But in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, Washington’s high-powered offense was jostled awake by an Adam Lind single. Nats manager Dusty Baker replaced Lind with pinch-runner Víctor Robles, while his counterpart, Joe Maddon, left Edwards (a right-handed pitcher) in the game to face Harper instead of bringing in left-hander Mike Montgomery. It backfired, and Harper cranked out his first home run in two months. Perfect timing.
Montgomery came in two batters later, only to give up a single to Daniel Murphy to put two on. Then, Ryan Zimmerman happened. The right-hander took an 0-1 middle-high fastball high and deep to left field where it fell just out of Ben Zobrist’s half-hearted outstretched glove. The three-run shot gave the Nats the lead and the win. Ninth inning not necessary.
The Cubs were five outs away from taking a commanding 2-0 series lead back to Wrigley Field, where the series would have been all but over. Now, much like Harper’s hair and bat, the tables have flipped. Playoffs, we finally have a series.