Harper homers in 9th, his 6th HR in 3 games; Nats top Braves
WASHINGTON (AP) Bryce Harper stood at the plate with one more unexpected chance to keep his home-run streak going.
Atlanta had rallied from five runs down, so here was Washington's cleanup hitter, looking to put an end to a game that had somehow reached the bottom of the ninth inning.
Swinging hard at a curveball that nearly hit the dirt, Harper did it again - extending his remarkable run with a two-run shot that sent the Nationals past the Braves 8-6 Saturday.
''Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone,'' he said.
Harper homered for the sixth time in his last three games, one off the major league record set by Shawn Green in 2002.
At 22, Harper had already become the youngest player in big league history to hit five home runs in two games. His one-out drive pushed the Nationals, a preseason favorite to win the World Series, over .500 for the first time this year.
''It looked like (catcher Christian) Bethancourt was going to go pick it out of the dirt, but when the guy is going that good, that hot, you're almost going to have to bounce it there,'' Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''And maybe even then he could hit it out of the ballpark.''
Harper homered three times versus Miami on Wednesday and connected twice against Atlanta on Friday night. On Saturday, his teammates ripped his jersey in the home-plate scrum, then pitcher Max Scherzer punctuated the party with the team's newest victory celebration - he poured chocolate sauce over Harper during a postgame interview.
''Around the bases, got to home plate, and to enjoy that with the team is huge,'' Harper said.
The Nationals blew a 6-1 lead before rebounding in the ninth against Cody Martin (1-1). Yunel Escobar had a leadoff single, Jayson Werth struck out and Harper hit his 11th home run on a 1-0 pitch.
''Certainly, we don't expect him to hit a home run every day,'' manager Matt Williams said. ''But he can get in streaks like this where he sees the ball very well.''
Harper has 12 RBIs in his last three games. He also made a nifty, running catch in right field in the eighth inning.
Drew Storen (1-0) pitched the top of the ninth for the win.
Washington has won nine of 11, going 4-0 against the Braves in that span. The Nationals were 7-13 before getting on a roll with three straight victories in Atlanta.
Harper hit it big on a day the Nationals celebrated their 10th season in Washington by having Hall of Fame slugger Frank Robinson throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Robinson was the Nationals' manager in their first two years after moving from Montreal.
Washington built a 6-1 lead in the fifth. By that point, everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit against Julio Teheran.
Nationals starter Doug Fister took a three-hitter into the seventh and got the first two outs before allowing three straight hits, the last a two-run double by pinch hitter Pedro Ciriaco.
The inning ended with Harper making a stretching, over-the-shoulder catch of Nick Markakis' liner.
Atlanta pulled even in the eighth when Jace Peterson had an RBI grounder and Bethancourt added a two-out, two-run double.
In the bottom half, pinch runner Michael A. Taylor was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Kelly Johnson trying to score from second on a single.
Jose Lobaton hit an early two-run homer. Both of his home runs this season have come against Teheran, against whom he is 7 for 13 lifetime.
Fister held the Braves hitless until Alberto Callaspo led off the fifth with a bloop single and scored on a two-out double by Cameron Maybin.
Ryan Zimmerman homered in the fifth following singles by Werth and Harper. The drive to left was initially called a double, but replay showed the ball had cleared the wall before bouncing back into the field of play.
It was Zimmerman's first home run in 24 games since April 14.
Braves: Andrelton Simmons has hit in eight straight games, going 12 for 29 (.429).
Nationals: Escobar is 10 for 24 with five RBIs in his last six games.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg said a flaw in his mechanics forced him from Tuesday's game, and that the problem has been solved. Strasburg said he changed his delivery because of an ankle injury, which in turn affected his back. Williams declined to specify a date for Strasburg's return.
Braves: Alex Wood (1-2, 4.32 ERA) seeks his first win since April 7 when he takes the mound Sunday in the series finale.
Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.15 ERA) is 5-2 lifetime against the Braves, including a win on April 29 in which he outdueled Wood.