What was Phillies Bryce Harper’s bizarre at-bat against Hoby Milner?

Phillies Bryce Harper
PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 08: Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) watches a replay on the scoreboard during the Major League Baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Oakland Athletics on April 8, 2022 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Star players like Phillies Bryce Harper show that in order to get far in sports, it’s best not to question their motives or tactics for how they attack certain situations. But Wednesday night’s plate appearance against Milwaukee Brewers reliever, Hoby Milner, had many scratching their heads and wondering why the former MVP wasn’t taking his hacks.

Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper walks back to the dugout after lining out against Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Colin Rea during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Phillies slugger just sat back and relaxed

It only took six pitches to send the lefty back to the dugout and become the first out of the sixth inning. His notion of dropping the shoulders, resting the bat, and sitting back on his heels ultimately set the tone for one of the oddest strikeouts in recent memory. The mix thrown to him was of fastballs, curveballs, and sinkers which are Milner’s specialty for retiring batters, especially extreme pull power hitters.

Philly fans weren’t the only ones who were struggling to find a reason for the slugger’s approach. In a post-game interview, Milner expressed his perplexity by stating, “After the first couple of pitches, it was apparent he was taking. I guess the scouting report he was going with was I was going to throw four balls before three strikes approach.” He further continued, “That’s really all I can say. That’s what it looked like. So I just filled it up after that. I just tried to throw fastballs down the middle after that.”

Apparently, Harper was dealing with a cold the night before which caused him to have a fever of 101 degrees as well as loss of his voice. This seems to be one of the reasons why he approached the plate the way he did. Another obvious reason was the simple fact that he’s still healing from his Tommy John surgery and didn’t want to overdo it by swinging at offspeed, high spin-rate pitches.

Regardless of the reason, it was clear that unless a 50 mph meatball was thrown over the heart of the plate, he wasn’t going to budge. I can’t say I blame him considering he’s had a long-awaited return and doesn’t want to miss any more playing time. He was making it pretty clear here that by doing nothing, he was telling us something regarding his condition.

Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper walks to the dugout after striking out against Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Abner Uribe during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Finding the silver lining

Social media users were quick to find the humor in this situation with memes funneling in from all corners of the web. The most popular one was how Harper’s “controller died” mid-game which looked exactly as described so no arguing there.

The Brewers would eventually go on to seal the deal in a 5-3 victory that night with Milner being recognized as the winning pitcher. Harper’s day ended with him going 1-for-4 at the dish with a single as his only hit in that one.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire