CHICAGO -- Bryce Harper managed to put up another historic day Sunday afternoon during the Nationals' 4-3 loss in 13 innings to the Cubs, but this time by not even swinging the bat.
Harper matched a single-game record with six walks -- three of which came intentionally -- including twice during extra innings with two outs, runners on first and second and the game tied at 3. He was also hit by a pitch, making him the first player in the past 100 years to reach base seven times in a game without recording an at-bat.
Harper saw 27 pitches during his seven plate appearances without recording an official at-bat, and he became the fourth player to reach base in all seven plate appearances, and the first to do so without a hit.
"It's happened before to me -- not at this level, but definitely when I was younger in high school, college, what-not," Harper said. "They had a plan. They stuck with their plan, and unfortunately it worked."
The Cubs issued 13 walks to Harper this series, setting a record for most in a four-game series, according to STATS, which records data back to 1913. In fact, Harper said he thought if he did not chase a few bad pitches against right-hander John Lackey on Friday he would have walked even more. They took the bat completely out of Harper's hands over the last two games of this series; he did not receive an at-bat in his final 12 plate appearances.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker compared it to hack-a-shaq from the NBA. Right-hander Tanner Roark called it "scared baseball." Either way, the Cubs handed the Nationals a four-game sweep while doing it.
"[Because of] how good he is -- why tempt fate?" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "If the other guy gets you, that's fine. You have no problem with that."
Rather surprisingly, Maddon called for Cubs pitchers to walk Harper in the 10th and 12th with runners on first and second, electing to pitch instead to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman with the bases loaded. It paid off for Chicago both times, as Zimmerman ended up leaving an MLB-record 14 runners on base Sunday. The previous record for runners left on base was 12.
The Cubs' strategy further exposes the fact that with the exception of Harper, second baseman Daniel Murphy and catcher Wilson Ramos, the rest of the Nationals' lineup has struggled to consistently find a rhythm to start the season. Although Harper reached base seven times Sunday, he scored only once -- on Zimmerman's double -- perhaps setting a blueprint that the rest of baseball can follow.
"Perfect," Zimmerman said with a smile. "I love it. I hope they do. … I can't blame them for walking him. He's one of the best if not the best player on the planet right now. It doesn't matter if it's me behind him or anybody behind him, they're going to take their chances with someone else. It's up to me for the rest of the year to come through. I look forward to having more opportunities like that."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.