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Bryce Harper struck out looking in one of the strangest at-bats of the entire season

The Phillies superstar appeared totally uninterested in even looking like he was going to swing the bat.

Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies bats against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park on July 19, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper is, rightfully, regarded as one of the very best players in baseball, a two-time NL MVP with four 30-homer seasons under his belt and more iconic moments than we care to count. When he steps to the plate, especially in the later innings, you start to lean forward in your seat, expecting something electric to happen. You certainly don’t expect whatever it is that Harper did on Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers.

With the score tied at 3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Milwaukee brought lefty reliever Hoby Milner specifically to face Harper. Harper stepped into the batter’s box, and then ... proceeded to stand there for six consecutive pitches as though his controller had just been unplugged.

It’s not just that the bat never left Harper’s shoulder at any point. It’s that at no point did Harper look like he even considered swinging — he never even got into his load position or lifted his front foot. He just sort of ... watched, as Milner flung frisbee slider after frisbee slider. The at-bat could’ve been over even sooner, too: one pitch was called a ball despite appearing to catch the bottom of the zone.

If one were inclined to be charitable, one could point out that Milner wasn’t throwing Harper much of anything to hit. The lefty got behind in the count 3-1 while throwing nothing but breaking balls, and it’s possible that Harper — assuming there was no way he was going to see a fastball — resolved to call Milner’s bluff and bet that he wouldn’t come near the strike zone. On the sixth and final pitch of the AB, Harper does seem more engaged, suggesting that was waiting until two strikes to consider swinging the bat. Still, Harper seemed to be expecting another slider, and when Milner came back with his first fastball, the All-Star was frozen.

The Phillies would go on to lose the game, 5-3. Harper will attempt to atone for whatever the heck that was in Thursday afternoon’s series finale, with first pitch set for 12:35 p.m. ET.