Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Bryce Harper has suddenly gone cold, and it's affecting the ballclub.
Since July 9, Harper has three hits in 23 at-bats, with no home runs and no RBI. The frustration is getting to him, and it shows.
On July 13, he scored the Nationals' only run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins. But Harper got thrown out of the game in the eighth inning after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
His ejection had ripple effects.
Harper's place in left field was taken by Scott Hairston, a versatile outfielder who has some pop in his bat. But when Hairston got his first chance to bat in Harper's spot in the order in the top of the 10th inning, his bat didn't pop—it fizzled.
Hairston, a specialist against left-handed pitching, struck out with a runner on second and third with one out against the right-hander Steve Cishek. The numbers would've favored Harper in that situation and not Hairston.
Ryan Zimmerman struck out after Hairston to end the inning. The Marlins walked off in the bottom of the 10th on a bases-loaded fielder's choice, after a two-base throwing error by Chad Tracy.
Shortstop Ian Desmond told Bill Ladson of MLB.com after the game that Harper needed to stay in the game:
I usually try to say the right thing, I guess, but we have to have our three-hole hitter in the game right there. It's as simple as that. The person that hits in the three-hole is usually your best hitter, one of your better players, usually the best. There is no doubt that his skill set is there, but ... in a one-run ballgame ... we need that game. That's the game you have to stay in, no matter what. Sometimes you have to bite your tongue. You get bad calls against us. The umpires didn't look at the replays or anything like that. But you have to stay in the game -- you have to for your team.
Perhaps Harper's participation in the individual competition of the Home Run Derby helped him clear his mind for when he returns to his team.