For a guy who had struck out three times on curveballs in his first three at-bats on Saturday night, Bryce Harper sure looked certain when he finally got a piece of one.
The reigning MVP sent the Nationals to a 3-0 victory with a three-run homer off Phillies reliever Patrick Schuster in the bottom of the eighth inning, and he knew it once it left his bat.
While the ball left the park like a bullet and pelted off the back wall of the bullpen in right field, Harper took his time walking out of the box. He then executed a bat flip that might as well have been done in slow motion. Jose Bautista would be proud.
A few screams to the dugout later, and Harper was on his way to his 24th home run trot of the season, this one more timely than most.
"I got pretty good wood on it. It felt good and I definitely knew it was out of the yard. There was a lot of emotion right there. I was pretty fired up to get that W," he said.
The three strikeouts all came against Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, a right-hander. Schuster is a lefty. Still, Harper felt good about finally conquering the curveball.
"[Eickhoff] struck me out three times. But that doesn't really matter when I hit a homer to win the ballgame. I was standing in right field thinking to myself 'well, you struck out three times so hit a homer and everyone will forget about that.' Look what happened. Why not?"
Now, that's an excellent quote. Turns out that Schuster could have thrown just about anything in that spot. Harper was ahead in the count at 3-1 and he had some frustration built up. He wanted to let loose with a big swing and just happened to find a pitch that was the perfect match.
"I was trying to sit on something soft, I guess, and got a pitch over the middle of the plate. I'm kind of shocked that he even threw it over the plate. I was going to swing no matter what, anyways, to tell you the truth. It could have been in their dugout, I probably would have swung at it. I was just trying to have a good at-bat and did some damage. I'm very happy with the outcome," Harper said.
So were his teammates, who had also struggled against Eickhoff. The Phillies right-hander tossed six scoreless frames and allowed just one extra-base hit.
The Nats didn't need much offense on Saturday night with how Max Scherzer was pitching. Scherzer had 6 2/3 scoreless innings of his own.
Their bats woke up late, and just at the right moment.
"Boy, that was a dramatic home run," manager Dusty Baker said. "That just shows you how strong he is mentally after you strike out three times then hit a home run. He had a rough night going up until then. That came right on time because we needed it."
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