NEW YORK -- It didn't take long for Bryce Harper to announce his presence to the Mets faithful at Citi Field during the Nationals' 8-3 win on Thursday night -- and the home run he smacked was even faster.
On the fifth pitch of his first at-bat of the night, Harper tattooed a fastball from Robert Gsellman a projected 406 feet down the right-field line to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the first. With a 116.3-mph exit velocity, it was Harper's hardest-hit ball of the Statcast™ Era (since 2015). The ball cleared the fence in an estimated 3.8 seconds, just missing a fan in the right-field seats, and caromed back onto the field. Harper now is tied with Texas' Joey Gallo for the fourth-hardest hit home run of 2017. The Yankees' Aaron Judge holds the top three spots on that list.
"I'm just trying to put good [swings] on the ball and have good at-bats," Harper said. "When you do that, good things will happen."
Harper's previous hardest-hit ball was a 116-mph double in 2015. His hardest home run prior to Thursday was 112.8 mph, which came earlier this season, also against the Mets.
Harper may tell you his 17th home run felt no different than any of his others this season, but Washington's starter, Giovany Gonzalez, noticed.
"That was a different sound," Gonzalez said. "He got it solid for sure. That ball left in a hurry. But then again, it's Bryce. Any time you hear a loud sound like that, you know it's going somewhere far and fast. It's impressive what he's been doing and he continues to do. He keeps getting better and better as the game goes on, and so young. He's got a long way to go. Enjoy baseball for the next 20 years."
Nationals manager Dusty Baker compared Harper's shot to the kind one of the greatest hitters of all time would blast.
"That was like a Hank Aaron shot," Baker said. "That was like a high line drive. It didn't have any [hang] time. As soon as he hit it, you knew that ball was out."
Harper was pleased to hear his manager compare his home run to Aaron.
"Dusty's been around the game a long, long time," Harper said. "To be in the same sentence as one of the greatest hitters of all time is definitely humbling."
While Harper's signature dingers may be moonshots sailing through the sky and landing in upper decks across the league, he holds no preference for the type of home runs he smashes. They all count the same to him.
"You can hit one nine miles or you can hit one in the front row," Harper said. "It's not how far, it's how many."