We are counting down the 10 biggest moments of 2015 for the Nationals as we approach New Year's Day. In the fourth installment, we look back at the day Bryce Harper hit a career-high three home runs in one game...
It may be hard to believe when you look at the final tally of Bryce Harper's historic 2015 MVP season, but on the morning of May 6, Harper was batting just .245 through his first 28 games. He had only five home runs, which put him on a pace for just under 30 on the season. Unless you looked at his .977 OPS, which was very high due to his increase in walks, you might not have thought Harper was doing anything special.
That all changed on May 6 against the Miami Marlins when Harper exploded for three home runs in one game. It began a stretch of three straight games with homers and catapulted Harper into one of the most prolific tears any hitter in MLB history has ever gone on.
All three of Harper's home runs that day came off Marlins starter Tom Koehler. The right-hander had enjoyed some previous success against Harper, who entered the game 2-for-14 in their head-to-head matchups, but that trend would not continue.
In his first at-bat, Harper took the first pitch for a ball before blasting a 92 mile per hour fastball into the visitors' bullpen in left-center field. His second homer came in the third inning in an 0-1 count. Harper took that one into the second deck in right field on a 93 mile per hour fastball thrown up in the zone. The third homer, also on an 0-1 pitch, went even further into the third deck, nearly reaching the concourse as it bounced down an aisle in the stands.
In addition to hitting three homers, Harper also drove in a total of five runs. He became the youngest player to accomplish that feat since Al Kaline in 1955. He became just the fourth Nats player to hit three home runs in on game, joining Alfonso Soriano (2006), Adam Dunn (2010) and Ryan Zimmerman (2013).
One of the more amazing parts of Harper's performance was his reaction to it. Afterwards I asked him where hitting three homers ranked among the best games he has ever had at any level of baseball. He shrugged, then started rattling off the cycles he hit in college, the four-homer games, how he hit three homers in one Double-A game back in June of 2014.
“That’s how I should be, plain and simple. That’s how I should be. That’s how I expect myself to play,” he added.
Great things have been predicted for Harper for quite some time, but this was one of the first itimes we truly saw it on display at the major league level. And for Harper, it was if he expected it all along. The media, the fans, all of the rest of us were amazed by what he did, but he saw it as just another step towards what he hopes to become.
After hitting three homers, Harper was given a curtain call from the fans at Nationals Park. But sensing he was one homer away from four, which is a feat more rare than a perfect game, he reluctantly obliged.
“I didn’t want to go up there because I wanted to get one more,” he said. “I wish they would have waited because I think I got up too early. I went up there and said ‘thank you’ for that. I wish they would have waited unless I would have got four.”
No one knows at this point where Harper's three-homer day will end up ranking among his career accomplishments when it is all said and done, but it was the premier highlight of what ended up being his first MVP campaign.
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