Harper had done his homework on Cole Hamels before the Phillies' All-Star pitcher intentionally plunked him in the back. Having examined tape with Jayson Werth, Hamels' former teammate, and third-base coach Bo Porter, Harper knew what he was looking for, got a nudge from Porter and was halfway home from third by the time Hamels tried to pick Werth off first. The result was a steal of home.
"He pays attention to detail," Porter said. "When you take his skill sets and in a person that takes information and uses it during the game, that's what you get."
Harper's quick glance back at the mound was slightly more subtle than Hamels' message, needlessly hitting a teenager in his eighth major league game. But all Harper said afterward was, "He does everything right out there on the mound. He throws really well, and he's a great pitcher."
In Harper's next at-bat, he took an audaciously wide turn around first. So it was no surprise when he stretched out a double later in the game on a blooper to short left field that would have been a single for any other player. In this case, it wasn't in a scouting report.
"That's how I play," Harper said. "I just try to go out there and bust my butt and really try to make things happen in situations. When I get a base hit, I'm always thinking two."
Some things can't be fully understood by reading a minor league box score. With each performance, Harper is building a case that he shouldn't appear in one ever again.
"You watch the kid, he plays the game the way it's supposed to be played," Porter said. "A lot of times, whether it's coaches or media, you get caught up, you look and you go, 'Wow,'?" Porter said. "Is it 'wow' because he's playing the game unlike other people? Or is he playing the game the way it's supposed to be played? If you ask me, he's playing the game the way it's supposed to be played.
"Not many guys have the ability he has."
- Craig Stouffer