"Just as he was beginning to heat up, Bryce Harper took a seat.
"The Nationals outfielder was held out of manager Matt Williams' lineup for a day of rest on Monday, when first-place Washington began a three-game series with the (Colorado) Rockies.
"Harper made a small adjustment to his stance coming out of the All-Star break, and the result was a 5-for-10 performance with a home run and a double in the first series against the Brewers. Harper saw his batting average jump 19 points -- up to .263 -- during that three-game stretch.
"With the Nationals set to face three left-handed starters in the series against Colorado, Williams said he wanted to find extra at-bats for switch-hitting Danny Espinosa, who started at second base Monday. Anthony Rendon moved to third base, with Ryan Zimmerman taking over Harper's spot in left.
"'He's going to get days (off) on occasion,' Williams said. '(Harper) hasn't been seeing the lefties as well as he wants to, so it's a question of getting Danny some at-bats right-handed, certainly, and allowing Zimmerman to get some time in left.'
"Harper has generally hit left-handers well this season, going 14-for-39 (.359), but Williams indicated that Harper has been struggling to locate balls down in the zone from southpaws in recent days.
"Overall, Harper is hitting .220 (11-for-50) since (his) return from the disabled list on June 30, and Williams said he will continue to recover fully from a torn thumb ligament.
"'He's coming off a very serious injury,' Williams said. 'So, one, we wanted to get Danny some time. Two, we certainly want to give Bryce a day when he needs it.'"
Baseball Tonight (@NOTMLBTonight) July 21, 2014
In his July 21 update, The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore spoke with Harper, who said he has no issues with sitting this one out:
"Before the Nationals arrived in Colorado, Manager Matt Williams explained to Bryce Harper how he planned to use him. Harper had busted loose in the first series of the second half, using his new stance to rip five hits, draw two walks and smash a homer in 12 plate appearances. But for myriad reasons, Harper would be sitting in the series opener, his second time out of the lineup in six games.
"'I'm totally fine with it,' Harper said. 'Of course, I'm a guy that likes to play. I always try to battle my way into the lineup. But I totally understand it.'
"In a series in which the Nationals will face three left-handed starters, Williams sat Harper -- one of the Nationals' hottest hitters and their most dynamic offensive player -- Monday night against Franklin Morales. Danny Espinosa will start at second base, which bumped Anthony Rendon to third and Ryan Zimmerman to left field in the spacious outifled at Coors Field.
"After Harper hit 5 for 10 with a double and a homer against the Brewers, will the day off affect his suddenly pristine timing at the plate? Harper said it 'absolutely' would not.
"'I feel good where my swing is at,' Harper said. 'I don't think a day off is going to hurt that at all. Of course with how I'm feeling, I'd like to be in there. But I feel good in BP. I felt good in the cage. It's more of a feel thing, and I feel good.'"
The 21-year-old Harper is in his third MLB season and has registered 295 hits, 45 home runs and 129 RBIs on a .271 batting average in 294 career regular-season games through July 21, per ESPN stats.