If Chase Utley were at Citizens Bank Park Sunday, he would have enjoyed watching Bryce Harper run the bases.
And, well, maybe he could have given him a few pointers, too.
Utley, an icon in this city for his all-out hustle, was a superb base runner. Not because he possessed blazing speed, but because he was aggressive — and also smart.
Harper had the aggressiveness down Sunday in the Phillies' 4-3 loss to the Reds (see observations). He stole second base in the third inning. That same inning, coming from second, he fiercely slid into home plate when the Reds couldn't catch Rhys Hoskins' infield popup. He went to second base on a single in the fifth inning when Yasiel Puig fired home. That same inning, he actually tried swiping home with Hoskins at the plate. He was unsuccessful.
"I spoke to Bryce about that," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "He has been very aggressive on the bases, as you guys have seen, and he's won some games for us with his aggressive base running. He and I spoke about it and he understands that that was a little overaggressive."
Harper completely understood.
"He just grabbed me after that inning, just wanted me to be safe," Harper said. "I think that was the biggest thing. Rhys may be swinging right there, things like that. Nothing you can do now."
Hoskins was in a 1-2 count against Reds starter Sonny Gray. Harper surveyed the situation and felt it was a decent time to give it a shot.
"The count's in Gray's favor right there," Harper said. "I thought Gray threw the ball pretty well today. He was pretty long in the windup, as well. Thought I had a good read, good jump. I think if I just slid headfirst, got my hand in there a little bit, it probably would have been better. I probably should know if my guy has a take sign or not just in case he swings and puts one right in my face."
So Harper fully understands he can be smarter. But the play shouldn't impact his aggressiveness. Part of the allure of Harper coming to Philadelphia was how his style epitomized the city's spirit. He came here to play hard and run hard.
"I don't think it's any different," Harper said of Sunday's performance. "I try to play the same every single day, try to play hard. If you put pressure on the defense as a group, good things will happen.
"I just like to run bases. I like to run, even when I was younger. I like to try to make plays on the bags, play the game hard. I've said it in the past — my teammates expect that out of me, these fans, this city, as well. I expect it out of myself. Try to play hard each day."
Just like the guy who wore No. 26.
Harper can be smarter, but there's no issue with effort from the $330 million man.
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