Josh Harrison Keeps Getting Hit By Pitches, and Helps Pirates to a 4-0 Win in the Process

PITTSBURGH — Josh Harrison isn’t sure why. Clint Hurdle doesn’t seem to know, either.

But for whatever reason, Harrison keeps getting hit by pitches. He was plunked twice more on Thursday in a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, bringing his season total to a league-high 18. Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs lags behind with 13. No other player has more worn more than half as many pitches as Harrison.

He swears up and down that he hasn’t changed his stance, isn’t standing any closer to the plate and is still trying to get out of the way. Yet, the bruises keep piling up.

“He just keeps getting hit,” Hurdle said. “I’ve got nothing for you. It’s 18 now. It’s crazy. … We’ll just keep padding him up.”

Harrison couldn’t shed any light on the situation, either.

“I wish I had answers as to why I was getting hit so much,” he said. “I just have a magnet or something right now.”

His best theory?

“(Starling) Marte. He left and gave it to me.”

Whatever the reason, all the bases on balls are having a significant effect on Harrison’s season, one that goes way beyond the extra time he’s spent in the trainer’s room.

Harrison’s on-base percentage is a career-high .377 after getting on base four times against the Rays Thursday. The bases on balls are a driving force in the uptick. Here’s Harrison’s on-base percentage over the last four seasons with and without his bases on balls.

Josh Harrison’s OBP with and without his HBP. (Alan Saunders)

Extra times on base has an effect beyond Harrison’s on base percentage. In the seventh inning, after he was hit by a Chris Archer changeup, Harrison stole second and scored on a Josh Bell single. That’s really making opposing pitchers pay for putting him on base.

“When I get hit, it makes him throw more pitches,” Harrison said. “It makes him pitch out of the stretch. It’s also going to cause the to feel like they have to throw fastballs. I feel like that happened tonight with Cutch’s third at-bat when he hit the double.”

In that fifth inning, Harrison singled and made some noise at first base. Archer threw a fastball that Andrew McCutchen fouled off and then threw over to first base twice. Archer had been leaning on his quality slider all night, but when he went back to the plate, it was a grooved fastball that McCutchen nearly sent over the Clemente Wall.

Archer’s pitches to McCutchen in the fifth. (

“If you hit me, I’m gonna go,” Harrison said. “If they know I’m gonna go, they have to throw fastballs to my guy behind me. Good luck.”


Tony Watson pitched in an interesting role on Thursday. Jameson Taillon pitched into the seventh inning but ran into some trouble and a high pitch count. Jesus Sucre hit a leadoff double and Mallex Smith walked. Taillon got Steven Souza, Jr., to fly out, but at 103 pitches, his night was done.

On came Watson to put out the fire and did he ever. He struck out red-hot Rays left fielder Corey Dickerson and then got Evan Longoria to pop up to end the threat. The last time Watson regularly pitched the seventh inning was 2012 — a lifetime ago for a relief pitcher — but he said he felt as good as he’s felt this year coming in to that situation.

“I felt good,” Watson said. “I feel like my stuff is coming out great. I feel like I’m getting the ball where I need to get it to. Jamo threw a great game, there was some traffic on and I had to come in and get that lefty out and then get Longo out of there as soon as I could. It was a good outing, great outing and a good win.”

Watson hasn’t had much more success since getting pulled out of the closer’s role earlier this month. While there’s been some fluctuations in outcomes, his WHIP in June is 1.50 after it was 1.57 in May and 1.50 in April. That’s pretty consistent and it’s not exactly compelling.

But if Hurdle’s plan was to put Watson in lower leverage situations, Thursday’s usage was mostly a swing and miss. Watson’s two at-bats were by far the highest-leverage at-bats pitched by a Pirates’ reliever.

But while the leverage was still high, the role was different. Watson came in to specifically face a left-hander with two men on base. His job was to get a strikeout and a ground ball and he accomplished that. Maybe there’s something to a change in role, even if there’s no change in leverage.

“Absolutely,” Watson said. “Especially in a situation I’ve been in a lot before in my career. A guy is out there spinning a really good game for us and gives the bullpen a breather and you come in late and just have to get a couple big outs. I just came in, shook his hand and (catcher Chris Stewart) and I were on the same page right away.”

It’s one appearance, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward as the Pirates attempt to get Watson back on track.


Gregory Polanco and John Jaso both hit solo home runs. … McCutchen went 3 for 3 with an RBI and Harrison went 2 for 2. Both men reached base four times. … Josh Bell drove in a run for the second straight night. He’s driven in runs in six of his last eight games.

  • I have to admit that I am now looking forward to each at bat of the Bell, Osuna and Cutch trio. It’s irritating that Diaz is not playing 80% of the games as he is our best option to win. After listening to the Harrison interview and watching him at the plate, he deserves a lot of respect for his approach at the plate and the contribution he is making. He’s entitled to his position in the box and is willing to take the pain for the base.

  • I love Josh Harrison. Love the energy he brings to the game and the fact that, he’s a pain in the ass to the other team.

  • When I watch Harrison play, I kinda want to hit him with a pitch too. And sometimes I kinda want to give him a hug.

    Does he lead the league in hugs as well?

  • I would like to point out how awesome it is that we are getting back to the point where McCutchen having a day like this is ho hum.

    • I agree but what takes away a bit of the excitement in my mind is the picture in my mind of NH salivating at the chance to trade him away and thinking not at all about doing anything to improve the team for THIS season and make the playoffs.

      • Darkstone42
        June 30, 2017 1:09 pm

        They’re still in contention, so I can’t imagine he looks to deal Cutch unless we fall farther back or Meadows comes back healthy and really hits in AAA and shows he’s ready for the Show.

        Last year is a pretty good model for what NH might do if the team is kind of fringy, I think. Deal a good, but limited impact player away for future assets close to or just breaking into the Majors. Cutch isn’t a limited impact player.

  • Tony was great. I think that was his best outing this season.

  • I turned the game off when they brought Watson in with two men on. I just couldn’t stand watching another meltdown. Glad I was wrong.

    • Pitchers go into slumps just like hitters. Way to many appearances and innings the past three years. With a little rest he will return to form as a set-up lefty or closer. He has the ability to freeze left handed batters with the cross action pitches. Normally he also handles righties very well. Looks like his velocity is returning.
      I am sure the pressure of free agency is on his mind. He switched to Scott Boras as his agent so he is preparing for a big payday. He knows his replacements are already in the bullpen with Rivero and Santana learning the ropes. Let’s hope a good trade is in the works the next few months.

      • piraterican21
        June 30, 2017 8:51 am

        He hit 95 mph, that got my attention. Hope he builds off this.

        • Darkstone42
          June 30, 2017 1:10 pm

          Me, too. He doesn’t throw good enough secondary stuff or have enough movement to dominate without his velocity, and I really think sitting 92-93 the last couple years instead of 94-95 makes that big a difference for him as a result.

      • He’s going to be dealt by July 31st. It’s not a 100% certainty, but it’s likely greater than 99% he is gone by then.

  • JHay tends to dive into the ball, therefore a good running pitch inside will tie him up. After three years of trying to hit that pitch with full season Walk numbers like 22, 19, and 18, he has decided to get hit by that pitch and be more selective overall at the plate – 21 Walks already in a half season. His K/W Ratio falls from around 4/1 to now just a little over 2/1, and when HBP are included, he is near a 1/1, and very productive for this team.

    • Al Oliver notoriously dove into the ball, and after 1969, the most he got hit in a season was 5 (amazingly, he got hit 14 and 13 times his first two years).

  • Michael Sankovich
    June 30, 2017 2:29 am

    let’s see the team get to .500, then I’ll start getting a little more excited.

    • Plenty to get excited about now. Cutch, Cole, Rivero, JHay & Taillon are playing like All-Stars right now. Rookies are contributing in meaningful ways and providing a spark of youthful exuberance. Hell, even Tony Watson looked like his old self last night in a relatively high leverage situation.

      Feel free to wait until the team reaches some arbitrary record to get emotionally invested, but I see no reason to wait. They’re worthy of adulation right now!

      • michael schalke
        June 30, 2017 10:51 am

        Adulation, really?

        • Ok, adulation may be a tad extreme. However, compared to the brand of baseball they exhibited in April/May, this month has been a joy to behold.

          • Darkstone42
            June 30, 2017 1:25 pm

            It’s baseball. Adulation is always appropriate for this beautiful sport.

            • Scott Kliesen
              July 1, 2017 10:43 am

              And unlike football, basketball and hockey, the older I get, the more I like it.