“Before my last at-bat last night, he told me [my] season was just starting, and ever since then, I’m hitting the ball hard and seeing it good,” Harris said. “So, I guess my season just started.”
Harris certainly picked a good time to get rolling, as his two-out, go-ahead homer off Adam Ottavino in the eighth inning extended the Braves’ winning streak to four games and gave them eight wins in their past nine home games against the Mets. This was just his third homer and eighth extra-base hit of the season.
“He’s going to have a great season,” Ronald Acuña Jr. said through an interpreter. “Things are starting to go his way, and they’re going to keep going his way.”
The Braves own the National League’s best record (37-24). They have a three-game lead over the second-place Marlins, a 7.5-game lead over the Mets and an eight-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East. Atlanta benefited from Ozuna’s resurgence in May, and it hopes to now start seeing Harris produce like he did when he arrived around this time last year and still won the Jackie Robinson NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Harris entered the day hitting just .163 with a .490 OPS over 38 games during this injury-marred season. But he exited with his first three-hit game and third multi-hit performance of the season with some of that confidence Ozuna stirred before Harris generated a 105.4 mph lineout to left against Ottavino in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s win.
“I told him you’re the best center fielder in MLB, so you’ve got to trust yourself,” Ozuna said. “I told him he couldn’t think about anything in the past and just start the season now. Today, he came in and did that with a good attitude. You can see it on his face.”
That "Money Mike" smile Braves fans saw so often last year got a little bigger when Harris won this latest battle against Ottavino. The Mets reliever left a 1-1 cutter over the middle of the plate, and the Braves outfielder drilled a 443-foot homer over the center-field fence. This was the longest homer of his young career.
“When I first hit it, I was like, ‘Aw, that felt good,'” Harris said. “You don't really feel it off the bat when you hit the sweet spot. I just took it into my trot, gave the bullpen my salute and gave my Money Mike at the end.”
That Money Mike home run celebration was seen 19 times in Harris' 414 at-bats last year. This year’s bid to build off the rookie success was slowed by a back injury that sidelined him for three weeks in April. Two games after returning from the injured list, he tweaked a knee and spent two weeks uncomfortably playing in a restrictive knee brace. Now, he is finally starting to look comfortable again.
“I feel like myself,” Harris said. “I was just waiting to get the results on a night like tonight.”
How frustrating had some recent days been? Harris went 1-for-4 with balls he hit 95 mph or harder during this past weekend’s series in Arizona. He was also robbed by Corbin Carroll’s sliding grab in center field during the series.
Harris began Wednesday's three-hit game with a bunt single that he placed down the third-base line. Braves manager Brian Snitker thought that might have taken some weight off the outfielder’s shoulders.
"It’s the kind of thing that can get you off the mat and get you going,” Snitker said. “It kind of did.”
Harris followed Orlando Arcia’s two-out double with one of his own and then scored when Acuña chased Max Scherzer with a go-ahead single in the sixth.
Acuña made a great catch against the right-center field wall to deny Tommy Pham a bases-loaded extra-base hit in the seventh. Harris’ homer actually was hit not long after he produced his own web gem. He ended the top of the eighth by racing back to the center-field track to make a leaping grab of Mark Canha’s long drive.
“It’s not easy when you’re not going good,” Snitker said. “He’s experiencing things for the first time, and credit to him, it hasn’t affected his defense. He’s going to give himself a chance to right the ship.”