GAME IN A NUTSHELL: No matter how much the game has changed over the decades, through deadball eras and steroid eras, there's always been something special about the 3-homer game. It's a single-game feat accomplished by some of baseball's greatest, but not all. And on this warm Wednesday afternoon on South Capitol Street, Bryce Harper added his name to the list with the best power display of his young career.
Harper homered in each of his first three at-bats, all off Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, to stake the Nationals to a 5-2 lead and elicit a curtain call from the crowd of 31,417. He came up to bat again in the bottom of the seventh with a chance to really make history, settling instead for a mere RBI groundout that extended the Nats' lead to 7-2.
That lead wasn't as safe as Matt Williams would have hoped, though. Max Scherzer, after dominating most of the afternoon, faded in the top of the eighth and served up a towering, 3-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton that trimmed the lead to 7-5. Tanner Roark had to pitch out of a jam to finish the eighth, then Drew Storen needed to strike out Stanton and Marcell Ozuna with the tying runner on base to record the save.
With that victory, the Nationals took this series from their division rivals. They've now won 7-of-9 overall and moved back within 1 game of the .500 mark.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Hmm, nothing really stands out here as a highlight. ... Wilson Ramos did double in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Other than that ... oh yeah, that Harper kid. What can be said other than he was phenomenal. His first homer was an opposite-field shot that landed in the visitors' bullpen. His next two were absolute bombs, each landing in the second deck high above the wall in right-center. Giancarlo Stanton didn't even bother moving on the last one; he knew where it was going. A 3-homer game is remarkable in and of itself, but Harper is in some really exclusive company with this one. He's the youngest to hit three homers and drive in five runs in a game since Al Kaline on April 17, 1955.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: The final line (7 IP, 10 H, 5 ER) doesn't look great, but Scherzer was great on this day, done in by a flurry of hits in the second and then Stanton's towering homer in the eighth. In between, the right-hander struck out 10, didn't walk a batter and completely overwhelmed the Marlins lineup. Should he have been allowed to retake the mound for the eighth? That's debatable. He was sitting at 101 pitches but had retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced. He then gave up back-to-back singles to Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, getting a mound visit from Steve McCatty. Scherzer stayed in to face Stanton, who worked the count to 3-2 and then launched a ball over the left-field wall to make this game interesting again.
KEY STAT: The only other Nationals to hit three homers in a game are Alfonso Soriano (2006), Adam Dunn (2010) and Ryan Zimmerman (2013).
UP NEXT: After 16 straight games in four cities, the Nationals get a much-deserved day off Thursday. They'll open a weekend series against the Braves on Friday, with lefties Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.86) and Eric Stults (1-2, 4.91) squaring off.