Bryce Harper solves Dickey’s knuckler, becomes first teen with four-hit game since 1996

David Brown
Big League Stew

Teen sensation Bryce Harper finally dialed in for the toughest pitch in the major-league directory: The cagy knuckleball of New York Mets ace R.A. Dickey.

Coming into the game 0 for 10 with six strikeouts against Dickey, Harper said he didn't expect to get a start. But Harper was in the lineup and he rewarded Davey Johnson's faith by hitting a double and two singles Tuesday night in a 5-3 victory for the Washington Nationals. Harper added a single in the ninth against non-knuckleballer Josh Edgin to become the first teenager to finish a game with four hits since Andruw Jones of the Braves in 1996.

Three of Harper's hits came against Dickey, a leading contender for Cy Young against whom Harper had all but surrendered.

"I've tried everything against that guy," Harper said.

Everything? He's 19! He won't try everything until he reaches 22 or 23, at least.

But anyway, isn't it great when a rookie learns something, manager Davey Johnson?

''Now he realizes he can hit a knuckleball,'' Johnson said.

Johnson considered sitting Harper against Dickey, but said he didn't really need a day off.

''He's going to have to learn how to hit a knuckleball. It's too early to be dodging anybody,'' Johnson said. ''Bryce has had a day off and he doesn't need one. He's stronger and younger than anybody out there. And that knuckleball might find his bat."

Good decision, skip.

If you notice in the video, teammate Jayson Werth is on base every time Harper comes up. That probably has something to do with Harper's success. Werth knows how to work a pitcher. For all of his talents at a young age, Harper's still honing that skill. But he is paying attention. Against Dickey, he shortened his swing and chopped three balls on the ground for hits.

''I think I was fortunate to get a couple knocks tonight,'' Harper said. ''You can't really get any advice on that guy. He's got a knuckleball. That's what he throws. You either hit it or you don't.''

Dickey said the entire Nats lineup is a challenge.

''That's the best lineup I've faced. They're just so functional,'' Dickey said.

Something to keep in mind for the upcoming playoffs.

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