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Nationals' Bryce Harper has hair-raising numbers

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals looks on

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals looks on in the dugout before the start of a game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on July 20, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

Before every game, Bryce Harper spends an extensive amount of time perfecting his craft.

His routine is intricate, his attention to detail precise, his demand for perfection intense.

First comes some water, then some gel, then some styling. Harper recently joked that before taking the field, he spends a half-hour doing his hair.

"You look good, you feel good, you play good," he said Saturday night before the Nationals faced the Mets.

Yet even after all that prep work, his hair immediately gets covered by his Nationals hat. It's kind of like painting a picture and hanging it where no one can see it.

But Harper's free-flowing hair does get seen during his home run celebrations. A teammate takes off Harper's batting helmet after he has rounded the bases and he flips his hair out of his face and over his head. And with a National League-leading 29 home runs entering Saturday night, his hair has flown through the air so often, he probably should be getting offers to do shampoo commercials.

The 22-year-old, in his fourth season, came in hitting .330 with 68 RBIs and leading the NL in runs scored (68), slugging percentage (.679), OPS (1.137) and WAR (6.8). With the Nationals in first place, he is the front-runner for MVP.

Harper -- who was injured last season and hit .273 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in 100 games -- attributes his increased production simply to staying in the lineup.

"I think just staying healthy," he said. "Staying with that same routine of going about it the right way and do things I can to stay in the lineup and help my team."

Harper, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft and Rookie of the Year in 2012, also has shown more plate discipline this season. He already has a career-high 74 walks. He's swinging at balls out of the strike zone less than ever before -- at a career-low 29.2 percent of all pitches, according to FanGraphs.

"The walks are typical of him being patient at the plate," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "I think that adds to his homers and his total production, too. He's just being more patient."

For Harper's first at-bat at Citi Field on Friday night, next to his name and picture on the scoreboard were incorrect statistics of a .271 average, six home runs and 36 RBIs. But if he noticed it, it didn't bother Harper because his stats, impressive as they are, are not important to him.

"It's not about the numbers," he said. "At the end of the year, if you're the last team standing, that's all that matters."

That being said, Harper jokingly was asked which he fears more, striking out with the bases loaded to end a game or going bald.

"Depends on the situation," he said before pausing. "Striking out, definitely. You don't want to strike out with the bases loaded in a big situation."

At least his hair, if it could be seen, would look good doing it.


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