WASHINGTON -- Each time All-Star Bryce Harper's name had been written into the Nationals' starting lineup this season prior to Wednesday's 7-4 victory over the Brewers, it had been as the team's No. 3 hitter.But for the first time in Harper's 79 starts this season, manager Dusty Baker moved Harper
WASHINGTON -- Each time All-Star Bryce Harper's name had been written into the Nationals' starting lineup this season prior to Wednesday's 7-4 victory over the Brewers, it had been as the team's No. 3 hitter.
But for the first time in Harper's 79 starts this season, manager Dusty Baker moved Harper out of his customary spot in favor of fellow All-Star Daniel Murphy while electing to bat Harper cleanup. Harper responded promptly in the first inning, when he launched a three-run homer off Brewers starter Matt Garza.
Baker said he had been considering making the flip in the lineup for some time, but he decided to go through with it after pondering it the night before. He has said in the past that most of his thoughts come to him late at night, and for that reason he keeps a notepad near his desk while he sleeps.
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"I don't know, I had that feeling last night, and I've been having it for a while," Baker said. "I'm hoping that ignites us. I don't know how long that's going to be, but we'll take it today."
While Baker was not sure if the move would stick long term, he added that he made the switch considering Murphy has been the hotter hitter at the plate. Despite going 0-for-4 Wednesday, Murphy leads the National League in average at .345, with a .384 on-base percentage and .574 slugging percentage.
Although Harper's first half has not lived up to the enormous standards that accompany winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award unanimously, he was elected as a starter for the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, and his home run Wednesday was his 18th on the season -- which tied Danny Espinosa for the team lead.
Harper has also been heating up recently, reaching safely in 27 of his last 29 games, with four doubles, five homers, 17 RBIs and 17 walks during that stretch.
This was Harper's first game in the No. 4 spot since July 29, 2015, although he downplayed any significance regarding his lineup positioning.
"I don't care. Whatever skip wants to do," Harper said. "Murph's a great hitter, so he's going to hit wherever he's at, and likewise. Like I said, skip, he knows what's best for this team, and whatever he says goes."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.