I only know two things about Mr. Harrison - he grew a beard because his wife and kids like the look and he plays ball like a man who knows he is one of the few blessed by God to be able to play a boy's game and earn a good living.
Check this out:
What? You think that was a fluke? Watch him do it again, this time against the Rockies:
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the peculiar position of having a hot bat in utility man Josh Harrison but nowhere to put him in the lineup.
Anyone who regularly watches the Pirates is familiar with the grit, athleticism and heart that Harrison brings to the field for every game. He’s finally found himself regular playing time this year after riding the bench since 2011, mostly as a defensive replacement.
Harrison is hitting .306 this year, good for second on the team only behind star Andrew McCutchen. He’s already had 206 at-bats this season, only 43 fewer than his career high set in 2012.
His play can’t be measured in just stat lines, however, as evidenced by his baserunning and superb play in the field.
Even general manager Neal Huntington said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this weekend that Harrison has surprised everyone this year and has earned the right to play every day.
The only problem is the team has nowhere to put him.
First, it was right field before the organization called up top prospect Gregory Polanco. Then it was left field to help ailing Starling Marte get healthy and second base before Neil Walker came back from an appendectomy.
Now the entire lineup is back and healthy, leaving Harrison as the odd man out despite his productivity.
As mentioned previously in a Bleacher Report article, some fans have been clamoring for weeks for Harrison to take over at third base for Pedro Alvarez.
However, a June 30 column by Ron Cook in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette debunked that idea as Alvarez himself said the issue has never even been breached. That’s not to mention that Alvarez is finally showing signs of heating up after a productive weekend series against the New York Mets.
However, Huntington did admit that the team isn’t getting what it needs from first base. Cook said:
Huntington acknowledged the Pirates aren't getting the power production they would like out of platoon first basemen Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez. Going into the games Sunday, the Pirates first basemen ranked 13th in the National League in batting average, tied for 12th in home runs, tied for 13th in RBIs and 13th in OPS.Regardless of where the team decides to stick him, it’s very apparent that Harrison has earned the right to be in manager Clint Hurdle’s lineup every night.
The team is 7-3 in their last 10 games and has one of the best records in baseball since the beginning of May—right around the time Harrison entered the lineup.
According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Bob Smizik, Harrison has transformed himself from a fringe roster player to one of the best in the lineup.
"There’s no getting around the fact Harrison, previously slotted as a bottom-of-the-roster guy, has been one of the Pirates‘ best players since being given the chance at regular play in early May," Smizik said.
Despite the productivity, Huntington confirmed that the team has no plans currently on giving Harrison a starting job at third base or anywhere else for that matter.
Huntington and Hurdle put more value in Harrison "bouncing around giving everybody rest" than they do in putting Harrison at third and moving Alvarez to first, Cook said.
It’s great to have a player like Harrison around to give the regular starters a breather or to have a solid backup plan if a serious injury arises.
But in that same vein, it’s tough to write a lineup card that doesn’t contain the name of one of the hottest hitters on the team, even if Harrison hasn’t shown sustained success over an entire season.
It doesn’t matter where Hurdle puts him. Josh Harrison has earned the right to start every game.
From Pittsburgh's other newspaper:
Harrison doubled to the warning track in right-center to drive in Clint Barmes with the winning run in the 11th inning Friday night to lead the Pirates to a 3-2 win against the New York Mets.
Harrison -- who originally had the night off -- managed to be all over the basepaths after entering the game in the seventh. He nearly single-handedly won it in the 10th, too.
"I asked him how he enjoyed his day off?" said manager Clint Hurdle. "He's soaking wet. Couple hits, rundown, a walk-off. He's been on some kind of roll.
"He's a backyard ballplayer and he just keeps showing up."
Harrison hammered a first-pitch fastball off Mets reliever Vic Black, a former Pirate farmhand, to score Barmes from first after he had drawn a one-out walk.
Harrison's night also featured an incredible play an inning earlier.
He led off the 10th with a sharp grounder to third that he hustled into a leadoff single. Then, he stole second, barely beating the with a head-first slide. The Mets challenged the call and lost.
But then came the highlight-reel play of the night.
Gregory Polanco hit a ball back to Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia, who seemingly trapped Harrison in a rundown.
But Harrison kept eluding the tag, falling and crawling when necessary to reach third.
After all that, Harrison was eventually stranded as Travis Snider struck out looking, Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked, Neil Walker struck out swinging, and Russell Martin popped up to right to end the threat.
"Pitcher stabbed it, and I knew I was too far off," said Harrison. "I was just trying to let Polanco get to second. I realized he did, and it was just a move I kind of did.
"When I saw them getting close I just dropped. It worked the first time, so I did it a couple more times and eventually got out of it."
And he didn't think he was out of the basepath, either.
"To be honest, I didn't think so, I was just in the moment dodging tags," said Harrison. "I'm sure they'll look at the video, but I didn't feel like I went too far out of my way."
The victory gave the Pirates a 41-39 record, putting them two games over .500 for the first time since April 11.
It also ended the night on a sweet note for Brandon Cumpton, who turned in another solid start that did not go to waste.
Cumpton left with game tied, 2-2, after seven. He gave up two earned runs, six hits, struck out four and walked one.
"It's like it's been in the past, just getting ahead, forcing the issue, trying to get them to put the ball in play early and keep the game close so we can win it in the end," said Cumpton.
"Just trying to do my part, trying to do my part, and do as best I can to not mess up."
The Mets did not go quietly in the late innings.
In the eighth, McCutchen had to go back to deep center, where he a barely snagged flyball at the top of the wall that Curtis Granderson hit off reliever Justin Wilson.
That defensive gem elicited chants of "M-V-P" throughout PNC Park.
The Mets wound up with runners on the corners in the ninth when Travis d'Arnaud singled with two outs on a ball that caromed off pitcher Mark Melancon, past second base and into the outfield.
Bobby Abreu, however, grounded out to end the inning.
Daniel Murphy singled with two outs in the 10th, but was caught stealing by Martin to end the inning.
The Mets had taken the first lead in the fourth when Lucas Duda delivered a two-run single to right.
The Pirates tied it at 2-2 in their half of the fourth on Jordy Mercer's two-out, bases-loaded single up the middle. That scored McCutchen, who led off the inning with a single, and Ike Davis who reached base on a fielder's choice.
Cumpton gave up two more singles in the fifth, but got out of the jam and allowed just one runner on base in both the sixth and seventh.
Jacob deGrom went 6 2/3 innings for the Mets, giving up five hits, two earned runs. He walked three and struck out four.