Bryce Harper endured boos from the Washington Nationals crowd in his return to D.C. on Tuesday night. But in the end, it was the new Philadelphia Phillies superstar who silenced his former fans with his play.
Harper went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in the eighth inning in Philadelphia’s 8-2 victory over the Nationals.
Harper Dominates After Striking Out Twice
Zach Eflin picked up the win for the Phillies, pitching five innings of shutout ball to outduel Max Scherzer.
But it was Harper who was the man of the evening. An announced crowd of 35,920 fans showed up to greet their former outfielder, cascading him with books and taunts for over a minute before his first at-bat against Scherzer.
For a time, it looked as though the home fans might get what they wanted. Harper struck out in the first inning, and then Scherzer got him to swing and miss again in a third-inning plate appearance.
But from that point on, Harper stole the show. Harper doubled in the fifth, hit an RBI single in the sixth, and then homered deep to right field off of Jeremy Hellickson. He topped off the homer with an emphatic bat flip towards the Nationals dugout.
“I didn’t know what it would be like,” Harper told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his return to Washington. “I heard the boos. That’s part of sports. So I just tried to remember that the city of Philadelphia is back at home, yelling at their TVs, happy as heck that I’m a Philadelphia Phillie.”
The Nationals organization did try to welcome Harper back with open arms, playing a tribute video for their former franchise player before the game. But rather than engender an ovation or even polite applause, it instead generated boos from most of the fans in attendance, setting the tone for the entire night.
Phillies Made Harper Offer He Couldn’t Refuse
Harper signed with the Phillies late in the offseason, taking a 13-year, $330 million deal to move to Philadelphia for what will likely be the remainder of his career. The 26-year-old had previously turned down a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nationals during the 2018 season.
But a report by the Washington Post has shined more light on that offer, suggesting it wasn’t as close to Philadelphia’s package as it may have looked. $100 million of the Nationals’ offer would have been deferred over 33 years, significantly discounting the contract’s value.
Still, Harper told the Post that the offer seemed like a legitimate place to begin negotiations, and informed the Nationals that he wanted a longer-term contract, even if that meant less money per year. Harper would then get a second deal back that offered him 12 years for a total of $250 million, with deferrals that stretched all the way to 2072 – a smaller and less lucrative deal than even Washington’s own first offer.
While the 2019 season has only just begun, Philadelphia has gotten what it paid for so far. In his first four games with the Phillies, Harper has six hits, including three home runs. According to William Hill, the Nationals are currently a 10/1 pick to win the 2019 World Series.