PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is having a season for the ages. He leads the National League in several offensive categories, including home runs, on-base percentage and batting average. In Wednesday's 12-2 win over the Phillies, Harper hit his 40th home run in the seventh inning.
Harper is the seventh player to hit 40 home runs in his age 22 season or younger, and Wednesday's homer marked the eighth time overall the feat has happened in Major League history (Eddie Mathews did it twice).
"It's been remarkable. He has been fun to watch," teammate Jayson Werth said about Harper. "I'm proud of him. He has come a long way in a short period of time. I can't say enough good things about him. He has become a superstar right in front of our eyes. But I think he has a lot to learn and long way to go, too."
Harper got the ball back in exchange for an autograph when he went back to the outfield.
"A fan threw it down," Harper said "He had a pen, so I signed one of the balls for him. I threw it back up to him and I got the [home run] ball. I'm thankful for that. It's pretty cool to have that kind of ball."
Harper didn't want to talk about what he accomplished, though. His focus is trying to catch the Mets in the National League East, which New York leads by 7 1/2 games.
"We have 17 more games left. I'll answer [about the 40 home runs] at the end of the year," Harper said. "We won the ballgame tonight. We have to keep grinding, keep rolling."
When asked what he is most proud of about the 2015 season, Harper said it's about staying healthy, which was an issue the previous two seasons. In 2013, Harper played 118 games because of a left knee injury suffered after running into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium. Last season, Harper played in only 100 games because of a left thumb injury suffered while sliding into third base.
"Everybody talks about numbers and stuff, but just being able to stay on the field, stay with my same routine every day [is great]," Harper said. "I have a team and organization that's behind me. I move forward, I'm not worried about what I've done that night or the week before. I'm staying on the field and doing those things and helping my team win."
Harper said that he was never worried about not staying on the field because the injuries he suffered were not permanent.
"My injuries were running into a wall, sliding into third base, "Harper said.
Manager Matt Williams said he is most proud of Harper's patience at the plate. Harper's patience is the reason he is having a career year.
"The misconception in this game is, if you swing, you are going to have results. But that is not necessarily the truth," Williams said. "The reality of it is, if you are patient enough to get good pitches to hit, then you can have that success. The proof is there for [Harper].
"The walk totals have gone up. The games played have gone up. When those walk totals rise, so do the RBIs, so do the homers because he is patient enough to get good pitches to hit. To me that's the tell-tale sign of him becoming the player he wants to be."