Bryce Harper powers Washington Nationals past Miami Marlins

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange  |  July 30, 2015 at 1:04 AM
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MIAMI -- Call him The Mick, Part Two.

Right fielder Bryce Harper hit a three-run, tiebreaking home run and added a second upper-deck blast, leading the Washington Nationals to a 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night at Marlins Park.

Harper, who drove in four runs, has a career-high 29 homers this season. Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor hit a solo homer in the eighth.

"He's got such a forceful, violent swing," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said of Harper. "He's now learning to control that even more.

"The hand-eye coordination that he has ... I remember when he first came up, a lot of people compared him to a young Mickey Mantle -- that type of thunder. (Harper) is a special hitter. He's got great power."

Harper, 22, now has 84 career homers. Mantle, the former New York Yankees great, had exactly 84 homers at the end of the 1954 season, when he was also 22 years old. He finished with 536 homers for his career.

Wednesday's game-winning homer, in the fifth inning, was Harper's fourth this season off Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. Three of those four homers were hit to the upper deck in right field, including the one Wednesday.

Harper, who entered the game leading the majors in slugging percentage and on-base-plus-slugging percentage, has reached base in 44 consecutive road games, the longest streak in the big leagues this season.

Koehler (8-7) struck out Harper in the first inning on a 3-2 pitch, a 94 mph fastball. That helped Koehler escape a two-one, one-out jam.

However, Harper got Koehler back in the fifth, snapping a 2-2 tie by hitting a 1-2 pitch -- a high, 93 mph fastball.

"Koehler got 'Harp' the first time with a fastball," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "The second time, Harper was ready for it."

Harper was upset with his at-bat.

"I should have walked in that first inning," Harper said. "But I was able to come back and hit the two bombs."

Koehler, who allowed five runs in six innings - the most damage done to him in any home start this season -- said Harper simply "did what he has been doing all year."

Still, this performance wasn't as bad for Koehler as what happened on May 6, when Harper hit three homers in three consecutive at-bats off of him in a 7-5 Nationals win at Washington.

Harper's second homer Wednesday was hit off reliever Sam Dyson.

The win went to Washington starter Doug Fister (4-6), who allowed four hits, one walk and two runs in six innings.

Miami opened the scoring with a run in the second inning. With two outs, left fielder Derek Dietrich was hit by a pitch. He scored from first on an opposite-field double by right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who got career hit No. 2,900.

Suzuki became just the eighth player in major league history to reach 2,900 hits and 500 steals, joining Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Barry Bonds, Honus Wagner, Paul Molitor and Eddie Collins.

Washington took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Harper, whose opposite field popup fell for a hit in shallow left field, scored from first on shortstop Ian Desmond's line-drive triple to right. Desmond then scored on a sacrifice fly by Taylor.

Miami tied the score in the fourth when first baseman Justin Bour drew a leadoff walk and came around to score on shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria's two-out single.

Koehler wound up allowing five runs on six hits in six innings.

The Nationals' win, combined with a New York Mets loss, stretched Washington's lead to two games in the National League East.

Harper, though, was focused on the Nationals lineup returning to health. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman, second baseman Anthony Rendon and left fielder Jayson Werth have all come back recently from lengthy stays on the disabled list.

The Nationals still have one more key hitter to get back from the DL -- center fielder Denard Span.

"It's just nice to have our team back," Harper said. "We are still missing one -- we hope Span gets back real soon. It's going to be a fun stretch for us the next two months."

NOTES: Miami reportedly agreed to trade RHP Mat Latos, 1B Michael Morse and their 2016 competitive balance draft pick (No. 35 overall) to the Dodgers for three minor league prospects. However, the trade hit a snag and was in limbo. ... The Marlins are still seeking to trade RHP Dan Haren, whose contract expires after this season. In addition, the Indians reportedly shown interest in trading for Marlins CF Marcell Ozuna, who slumped this year and is currently in Triple-A. ... Nationals RHP Drew Storen, who lost his closer's job on Tuesday when Washington acquired RHP Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies, said he has talked to his agent and to GM Mike Rizzo. "I'm aware of the move," Storen said. "I'm going to leave it at that and have no comment right now."

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