Bryce Harper struggled mightily on Saturday against the Yankees, striking out in five of his seven at-bats. But the pitchers who had to face the 19-year-old with a penchant for quick in-game adjustments at the plate weren't about to ease up on the slugger.
"You know he's a real aggressive hitter," said Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte. "I felt like I had a pretty good cutter going and he was swinging and missing at them early. I tried to throw some balls into him at his first at-bat and after that just tried to expand the zone on him."
Harper struck out in three at bats before practicing a little patience in the seventh: waiting through two cutters to connect with a fastball down the middle, which he sent straight to centerfielder Curtis Granderson. The contact, Pettitte later admitted, prompted the 40-year-old to let his relievers take care of the rest.
Harper would go on to strike out two more times before approaching the plate with two on, two out, and down by two in the 14th inning.
The sellout crowd of 41,287 had thinned out significantly as the game wore on through extras. They rose to their feet hoping to witness heroics like those displayed less than two weeks earlier in a 12th inning walk-off victory over New York's other team.
He'd already accounted for nearly half his team's strikeouts on Saturday, but that didn't calm any nerves in the Yankee duggout.
"You start thinking, 'OK this guy's had a really tough day,'" said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "People are cheering for him, it could change his whole day."
"It's like one of those kind of storybook endings --you're hoping it wasn't going to be," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "That would've just been too good to be true, for Harper to hit a walk-off right there. The place might've fallen down."
Harper grounded out to second and the Yankees took their second in the series. Sometimes though, it's not all about hitting. Harper's repeat performance of Friday night's ESPN Top 10-worthy diving grab in the 13th inning caught plenty of applause.
"I tell you what," said Girardi, "The kid --even though he had his struggles at the plate-- played tremendous defense for them. He's fun to watch."