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Nationals Slugger Bryce Harper Benched In Loss Against Cardinals

The Washington Nationals faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals at home on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd—a home crowd which the Washington Post described as “thunderous.” Not only did the Natties lose the game, they also lost one of their biggest stars just over midway through.

Leading off the sixth inning, Bryce Harper grounded out to the pitcher and his unsuccessful attempt to reach first base failed to impress his manager. Terry Williams made the decision to bench Harper, citing a “lack of hustle.” Not one he made lightly, given the Cards 3-1 lead at the time.

Speaking about his decision to bench Harper, Williams said:

“We made an agreement. He and I made an agreement. This team made an agreement that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times, that we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win. As it turned out, his spot came up. Kevin Frandsen put on a nice at-bat against Rosenthal. But his spot came up with he ability to win the game. That’s a shame for his teammates.”

Williams was referring to a ninth-inning rally that fell one run short. Harper’s next at-bat would’ve come then—with two runners in scoring position and just one out. Though he was very disappointed to be sitting on the bench with a chance to win the game on the line, Harper said he respected and understood the action taken by his first-year manager.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo also expressed “100 percent” support for Williams. All that support is likely being expressed publicly to help shield Williams from criticism that often comes after unpopular decisions are made. While his reasoning seems sound, the Nationals did lose a game they might have otherwise won.

There’s also the fact that Harper has been dealing with an injury. Tightness in his quad kept him out of a game against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. Although Harper insisted that he’s fine and said the injury didn’t play a part in the play that got him benched, it’s hard to imagine something serious enough to keep him out of a game completely cleared up in three days time.

That being said, all’s well that ends well. Harper was back in the lineup on Sunday as the Natties defeated the Cards 4-3. They’re just a game back on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Williams can count on the same kind of support as long as this team keeps up its winning ways.

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