Bryce Harper, the rookie phenom on the once lowly Washington Nationals, will dig into the batter's box and look to exact some more revenge against the Phillies’ lefthander Cole Hamels on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The last meeting of the two ended with Hamels being suspended and Harper rubbing a sore back as the Phillies pitcher “welcomed” the rookie into the league with a 93-mph purpose pitch to the kidneys (see video above).
After the game, when reporters asked Hamels about the first pitch to the Nationals’ right fielder, the pitcher simply said: “I was trying to hit him. I’m not going to deny it. I’m not trying to injure the guy. They’re probably not going to like me for it, but I’m not going to say I wasn’t trying to do it. I think they understood the message.”
And in case you didn’t get the message, Hamels continued, “[It’s the] old-school, prestigious way of baseball.”
The “message” earned Hamels a five-game suspension and cost him an undisclosed chunk of change.
For the 19-year-old Harper, his legend grew.
After quietly trotting down to first base, he raced from first to third on a single by the next batter, Jason Werth. With a 1-2 count on Chad Tracy, Harper bolted home as Hamels threw to first to check the runner. The throw from the Phillies’ first basemen was late as Harper slid into home with a stolen base.
It was Harper’s first stolen base of his then eight-game MLB career and it etched his name into the record book as the youngest MLB player to steal home. Now he only has to steal home 53 more times to tie the great Ty Cobb for the most ever.
The 7:05 p.m. EDT game in Philadelphia will pit Hamels (6-1, 2.48 ERA) against Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.31 ERA) as the Nationals (26-17) go for the three-game series sweep of the struggling Phillies (21-23).
But the intrigue surrounding this game isn’t the final score but whether Jackson will go “old school” against Hamels and send a return message when the pitcher comes to the plate? And will Harper get the “next” laugh with a home run pose at the plate and a slow trot around the bases?