Harper’s instincts gave Nats a critical run

Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

Interesting play in the sixth inning of an eventual 10-9 loss to St. Louis. This one allowed Washington to take the lead 9-8, though it was one they couldn’t hold. With runners at first and second and two out, Ryan Zimmerman slashed a single to right field. Jayson Werth was waved home and while it looked like St. Louis right fielder Allen Craig had a play at the plate – he got there before Werth even hit the bag at third – the throw bounced well in front of catcher Yadier Molina.

Smart man that he is, Molina knew Zimmerman would try to make it to second base on the throw home. He gunned the ball back there to try to nab the easy final out. But there was a problem: Rookie Bryce Harper, who had already gone from first to third on the play, was coming home, too. Why? Because the former catcher figured Molina would sense right away he could get Zimmerman. Harper, too, is no dummy. Molina was five or six feet in front of home plate and pitcher Fernando Salas was scrambling to cover home for him. The opportunity was there.

“A matchup against the pitcher is a lot better than a matchup against [Molina],” Harper said.

Harper’s aggression forced the Cardinals into a mistake. Because while the throw home might have got him, Molina wasn’t sure Salas was in position. So he jumped to grab the ball while backpedaling and tipped it into the air. Salas couldn’t come up with the deflection as Harper slammed into him safely. Afterwards, veteran Mark DeRosa quizzed Harper in the dugout about what he saw on the play.

“I came around second, saw the guy throw it home, went [to third], saw [Molina] vacate and just got going,” Harper said. “I mean, he was pretty aggressive with his arm. I would have done the same exact thing as a catcher. So I was just thinking to myself ‘What would I do?’ And it was the exact same thing.”

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