WASHINGTON - He is 19 years old and plays the game of baseball with a flair and aggressiveness that is at times jaw-dropping.
On Sunday Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was named the National League Rookie of the Month for May. It's the first rookie honor for a National since Ryan Church won in May 2005.
Harper hit .271 in 28 games during the month and led National League rookies with 21 runs scored and four triples. He hit four home runs and 10 RBI during that stretch, including his first Major League blast on May 14 against the Padres.
Harper enjoyed a nine-game hitting streak which ended last Wednesday in the series finale against the Marlins. In his last 11 games heading into Sunday's action against the Braves, he hit .366. He has averaged over a hit a game during the month, including nine multi-hit games.
Perhaps the best part of the nine-game hitting streak was his series against the Braves in Atlanta. Harper went 5-for-11 with a pair of homers during a three-game sweep.
"I feel good up there," Harper said Saturday before the game. "I have felt good the whole time I have been up here. It's only a matter of time once I get going. I am playing pretty well right now but you can't sit on that. You have to play well throughout the year."
WTOP's Craig Heist interviews Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper before the game Saturday, June 2, 2012. Video shot by Lauren Larson:
Harper was the team's first overall selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, and he has played a big role since his April 28 call-up in keeping the Nationals in first place as they have had to battle through a multitude of injuries.
Watching Harper take batting practice, you can see him trying to soak in the knowledge from hitting coach Rick Eckstein, and he credits his teammates for helping him win the award.
"I have had a lot of guys play around me that are really good," he said. "Having guys like (Adam) LaRoche, Zim (Ryan Zimmerman) -- you know, guys that have been here and really helped me out with pitchers and base runners. (Jayson) Werth was huge on that. He's been big with me on base running and things like that … It's a lot of fun being out there with this ball club. We're a good team, and we are going to keep it all going."
"It's pretty much the same for me. I just try to go up there and work the other way a lot. You know line drives a lot and try not to get too big out there and show my power," Harper said. "I feel like if I hit line drives out there, it's going to go, so I just try to go out there and stay within myself and try to work on the things I need to work on."
When Harper wasn't getting hits during the month, he often was the victim of bad luck, hitting balls right on the nose and having nothing to show for it.
"That's part of baseball, you can hit the ball right on the nose at someone and they are going to catch it, so you just have to take it every day and keep hitting the ball hard and stay within yourself," he said.
"You have to stay with your approach and not get too big. You just have to go out there and swing the bat well and try to get some runs for your pitchers," Harper said.
Gio wins Pitcher of the Month
Despite taking the loss in the Nats 3-2 loss to the Braves Sunday, Gio Gonzalez earned National League Pitcher honors for May.
The left-hander went 5-0 in five May starts, tying him for the Major League lead in wins while pitching to a 2.25 ERA in 32 innings, with a league best 45 strikeouts.
It marks the second consecutive month the Nationals have had a starter win Pitcher of the Month as Stephen Strasburg took home the honor in April. After the loss Sunday, Gonzalez is now 7-2 and his ERA is 2.31 which ranks third in the National League.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)