Three. Two. One. Those numbers represent how many home runs Bryce Harper hit in each consecutive game he played in this past week. It started in the rubber match against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday – which the Nationals won – then continued and concluded in a big way against the Atlanta Braves Friday and Saturday night.
Not only did Harper shine, but his team picked up some much-needed victories and momentum.
After splitting the first two games of a three-game series, Harper led the Nats by belting three home runs and driving in five, in a game Washington won 7-5. With the win, the Nationals improved to 14-15. The Marlins grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning, then Harper homered in the bottom half of the inning to bring his team within one at 2-1. This was the start of seven straight runs for the Nats. Yunel Escobar tied the game in the bottom of the third with a sac-fly. A few batters later, Harper connected for homer No. 2 of the evening, which was a two-run shot to make the score 4-2. Harper launched his final home run of the game in the bottom of the 5th with nobody on. Escobar hit an RBI single in the seventh and Harper had an RBI ground out to end the Washington run. Giancarlo Stanton unloaded a three-run home run in the top of the 8th for the final runs of the game. Drew Storen picked up his eighth save of the season and preserved the second win of the season for starter Max Scherzer, who pitched seven innings, giving up 10 hits and striking out 10.
Atlanta was hoping a day off would cool Harper down, but they were in for a long night. After yet again spotting the visiting team a two-run lead, Washington responded with 9 unanswered runs. Jayson Werth got things started with a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th. Harper would hit his first home run of the game in the bottom of the 6th to give his team a 3-2 advantage. Danny Espinosa launched a solo home run in the 7th. Harper blasted an 8th inning pitch 412 feet and a three-run home run to make the score 7-2. Espinosa also had a multi-home run night when he hit a two-run homer later in the inning. Gio Gonzalez picked up the win after seven solid innings, giving up five hits, two runs, while fanning eight Atlanta batters.
Saturday night the fireworks were launched thanks to Mr. Harper. Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead after getting a two-run home run from Jose Lobaton and an RBI single from Escobar. After Atlanta got a run back in the 5th inning, Ryan Zimmerman responded with a three-run home run to make it a 6-1 game. Atlanta got two back in the top of the 7th before scoring three in the 8th to tie the game at six. Neither team scored in their next at-bat, setting up the stage for Harper. In the bottom of the 9th, Harper hit his sixth home run in his last three games in walk-off fashion on a two-run shot to seal the win for the Nats.
Washington took care of business on Sunday to sweep the Braves with a 5-4 victory. Harper added another RBI to his tepid stat line for the weekend with a double in the 1st. Ryan Zimmerman had an RBI double and Ramos had an RBI single in the inning. Atlanta would take a 4-3 lead before Zimmerman and Ramos had a say in the matter. Zimmerman had an RBI single to tie the game and Ramos hit an RBI double, scoring Zimmerman, which was essentially the game winner after Storen picked up his ninth save of the season.
The win on Friday marked the first time all season Washington reached the .500 mark. They are now 17-15 and have made up some ground in the NL East. The Nats have taken over second place and are now 3.5 games behind the division-leading New York Mets, who the Nationals just took three-of-four from last weekend. Washington has won four straight series, all within their division.
As for Harper, he had an incredible end to his week and it couldn’t have come at a better time. His team is now playing extremely well and have a ton of momentum. If Harper can stay healthy – something that limited him to 100 games last season – this team will be just fine. He already has 11 home runs and 28 RBIs compared to 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in 2014. His stat line is .300/.435/.655 to go along with an OPS of 1.089. He was heralded as one of the next big stars in baseball and now he is proving why he was receiving such high praise.
Washington has little time to rest as it starts a seven day, seven game west coast trip on Monday. The Nats will play a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and then travel to San Diego for a four-game set. Harper and the Nats will look to bring their hot streak out west and continue their winning ways.