Bryce Harper walked off the Atlanta Braves (14-16) as the Washington Nationals (16-15) won their third straight game by a final score of 8-6. It was Harper’s sixth home run in the last three games and his 11th of the season. In a highly touted pitching matchup between stars Doug Fister and Julio Teheran, 14 runs were scored alongside 25 hits. The Nats have also won nine of their last eleven, which brings them over .500 for the first time this season. They now sit at second in the NL East, three games back of the New York Mets.
Washington opened up the scoring in the 2nd inning, when they scored three off a Jose Lobaton home run (his second of the year) and a Yunel Escobar RBI single. They scored three more in the 5th when Ryan Zimmerman hit a line drive homer into the left field seats that was ruled a double, but the call was overturned to a home run after Matt Williams challenged the play. The three run shot, which was Zimmerman’s third homer of the season, gave the Nats a commanding 6-1 lead.
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The Braves would come roaring back however, scoring five runs between the 7th and 8th innings to tie it up. That would be nothing Bryce Harper couldn’t handle, as with one out in the bottom of the 9th, Harper sent a 1-0 pitch to deep center field for the Nationals’ third home run of the day, scoring Escobar and walking off the Braves. His game winning hit is his sixth home run in the last three games, giving him the sole lead of that category in the National League.
Doug Fister pitched well, earning a no decision in 6.2 IP, allowing three earned runs on six hits, struck out three, and did not walk a batter Matt Thornton earned a hold, but Aaron Barrett almost blew the game, allowing three runs (all earned) in 0.1 innings. Tanner Roark came in with the bases loaded and gave up a RBI groundout to Jace Peterson and a game tying two-run double to Christian Bethancourt. Both runs were charged to Barrett.
With the game tied in the 9th, Drew Storen pitched a beautiful 1-2-3 inning that set up the Washington offense for the win in the bottom half of the inning.
Voted the most overrated player in baseball by his fellow players at the beginning of this season, Harper has truly risen to the occasion in the first 31 games of 2015. His improved plate discipline has allowed him to see more pitches and get deeper into counts, drastically improving his walk rate and allowing him to force more favorable counts. With a dangerous Harper in the lineup, this Washington team may have their best baseball ahead of them. Let’s take a look at where Harper ranks in some key offensive categories:
Bryce Harper MLB Ranks:
-Home Runs – 11 (2nd)
-Runs Batted In – 27 (T-2nd)
-Walks – 27 (1st)
-On Base Percentage – .433 (7th)
-Slugging Percentage – .651 (4th)
-Runs Scored – 25 (T-2nd)
Next Game: The Nationals wrap up their homestand and will look for the sweep tomorrow at 1:35 PM ET matinee against Atlanta. You can watch the game on MASN2 and WUSA-9. Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.15) takes the ball for the Nats against Alex Wood (1-2, 4.32) for the Braves. Washington now leads the season series 4-1.