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Nats 7, Marlins 5: Harper’s 3 homers lead the way

May 6, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

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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.

  1. alexva6 - May 6, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    had it all the way, way to go Harp

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 3:49 PM

    The win took the sting out of last night. Still need to work on things.

    Scherzer pitches his worst game of the season and gets the win. Go figure, now 2-3

    • jd - May 6, 2015 at 3:53 PM

      Scherzer’s line would have looked ok if he came out after 7 which I think he should have.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 3:59 PM

        Agreed! MW should’ve pinch hit for him. If Scherzer’s spot wasn’t up to bat I would’ve brought him back for the 8th but a quick hook given his pitch count.

        MW has to get better at this. I congratulated him on Sunday for the quick hook on Fister.

        He has to know these guys.

      • jd - May 6, 2015 at 4:04 PM

        Ghost,

        Funny, on Sunday I was perplexed at the quick hook. The point is that there’s no consistent methodology. I don’t think MW has a good feel for this part of the job and it’s not surprising since he wasn’t a pitcher or a catcher. You’d think Knorr and Mc.Catty can help here.

      • therealjohnc - May 6, 2015 at 4:40 PM

        Meh. Not only had Scherzer been in fine form since the 2nd, but the bullpen has been leaned on really hard the past week, culminating in Strasburg’s injury-curtailed 3IP game last night. I can certainly understand giving your ace a bit of rein under those circumstances to be an ace.

        And I guarantee that, had MW hooked Scherzer and the bullpen imploded, MW would have been savaged for that in here as well. “Takes his ace out while cruising, blows ballgame, terrible terrible terrible [etc.].”

        I’m not sure what I would have done (except in hindsight, which is the best way to manage). I think hooking Scherzer or not hooking Scherzer are equally defendable positions, and so I can’t get all that worked up about it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 6:34 PM

        jd, agreed and catchers have the best instincts for theor pitchers making Knorr as the bench coach a good person to call it.

        I think you nailed it on the inconsistency with the methodology but keep in mind the scores of each game probably also factored in.

  3. stoatva - May 6, 2015 at 3:53 PM

    I can’t count the number of times MW has let a pitcher with 100 or more pitches bat for himself, then immediately run out of gas in the top of the inning, getting an out or fewer in the process.

    Makes me nutz.

    Good win, though.

    • jd - May 6, 2015 at 3:58 PM

      I know. And then sometimes he takes out a pitcher in the 6th or 7th inexplicably like Fister on Sunday. I really do have a hard time following his logic on pitcher handling. I thought when Scherzer was due to hit in the bottom of the 7th that it was set up perfectly for a pinch hitter.

      • adcwonk - May 6, 2015 at 4:48 PM

        It’s possible the MW is talking to Knorr or McCatty — or even the pitcher. We really don’t know.

  4. adcwonk - May 6, 2015 at 3:53 PM

    Winning a game. Winning the series. And getting the first day off after 16 straight games — and already at home.

    It’s the perfect set up for a rejuvenated, recharged, Nats to come out of the gate again on Friday!

    • natsfan1a - May 6, 2015 at 4:07 PM

      Also the perfect set up for rejuvenated, recharged fans. An off day after a loss can be, um, unpleasant. Nice win, even if I got a tad bit nervous in the late innings.

      How about that Harper kid? Sweet fancy Moses x 3, eh?

  5. Eugene in Oregon - May 6, 2015 at 3:59 PM

    I know the Nats lost the game in which Ryan Zimmerman hit 3 HRs. What about the other two? Anyone know?

  6. nattygoats - May 6, 2015 at 3:59 PM

    Great game. Drew oh Drew your destroying my nerves

    • jd - May 6, 2015 at 4:05 PM

      Pitched great to Stanton and Ozuna though, didn’t he?

      • adcwonk - May 6, 2015 at 4:49 PM

        It just took him a few batters to warm up . . . .

  7. Serious Jammage - May 6, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    Nats pitchers held Stanton to 2 hits (1 HR), 2 BBs, and 3 RBI for the series in 15 plate appearances. His average actually went down this series. I’d say that’s pretty solid.

    • Danny - May 6, 2015 at 4:13 PM

      He hits a HR per series against us

      • Eric - May 7, 2015 at 1:59 AM

        This is like saying “Matt Harvey owns us”: it’s true regardless of the opponent/series, whatever ;).

  8. ehay2k - May 6, 2015 at 4:10 PM

    Another series win. Just keep doing that. We will lose close games, heartbreakers, and suffer humiliating defeats along the way. Just gotta grind it out. The criticisms of MW, when he should pull a guy, when he shouldn’t are never going to be settled. He is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 6, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      “He is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.”

      And like Davey before him, he really doesn’t give a [darn].

    • Steady Eddie - May 6, 2015 at 4:35 PM

      +1 on the MW comments.

      While I wouldn’t defend MW on everything he does by a long shot (and suspect that privately to people he trusts, he wouldn’t either), what a lot of people don’t realize is that the days of the dictatorial manager who lays down the law are basically done (or as autocorrect wanted to say it, “bad ally”!).

      An effective manager like an effective boss makes a certain number of these transactions into negotiations — and then obviously keeps track of the result the next time the situation arises. Especially with a new member of the rotation who comes in with the creds Max does. Those creds are from his record more than his contract, and from the contract’s seven year team commitment to the guy more than the dollar amount. Plus I expect his lousy record thus far in the face of really good stats, because of lousy run support, played into it, as well as understanding that Max wanted to get past his rep of not being able to go past the seventh inning.

      That’s not to defend the actual decision by itself to let him go back out for the eighth. Maybe if he had a shutout going — but I Suspect MW felt the team had enough leeway with a five run lead that they could take the risk that Stanton would do what he did — and then the next time, Max will not get that kind of slack.

      • therealjohnc - May 6, 2015 at 4:43 PM

        I think the state of the bullpen also played into MW’s thinking, although of course we can’t know for sure.

      • adcwonk - May 6, 2015 at 4:53 PM

        I think you and realjohn both make good points. If I could zoom out a bit — a manager has to consider not only this game, but also this month and this season. (Thus, for example, giving Scherzer a shot at going past 7 when there’s a five run lead — and what happens makes it easier for MW to yank him next time). It’s not always “all about this game” — it’s really about “getting in best position to get to the postseason and win the WS”

      • virginiascopist - May 6, 2015 at 5:36 PM

        Now MW has a data set (albeit a small one) on which to base future decisions.

      • Steady Eddie - May 6, 2015 at 6:03 PM

        Less a data set than a direct transactional experience.

        The data set was already plenty — 101 pitches in 7 innings, five run lead, no shutout to protect (nor would a complete game be a plausible possibility): all that is plenty of data to PH for him in the 7th.

        All the stuff Scherzer brought to the question was internal motivations for Scherzer To stay in, nothing that real data would suggest.

        What MW has for the next time (which I doubt will come anyway because Scherzer is not that pigheaded) is the response of “You really want to double in be inning your ERA earned over six starts? Take a load off, Max, the pen can take it from here.”

    • Nats Fan Zee - May 6, 2015 at 8:01 PM

      Are you kidding me? He had thrown 114 pitches for the love of Mike. What starter on this staff has had as high a count especially In 7 innings. It’s the first week on May. No need to stretch arms.

      Pull ‘me … He did his job.

      • Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 8:24 PM

        +1 NFZ. The idea that MW was thinking about the state of his bullpen or calculated that leaving Scherzer in was the best move to make sure that we make it to the playoffs is absurd. Roark hurriedly warmed up and came in after the Stanton HR. You can’t really believe that MW thought it was really important to get out of this game without using him.

        It’s fine to make the case that he made the right move. Reasonable minds can differ. But how about coming up with a halfway defensible justification. Trying to avoid using the bullpen in the 7th inning of a winnalbe game is not one of them.

      • ehay2k - May 6, 2015 at 8:35 PM

        In the postgame presser, MW said he had Scherzer had a 115 pitch limit. It’s pretty clear that by sending Max back in there, at around the 100 pitch mark, IIRC, MW thought Max could finish the inning and stay below that limit.

        The issue wasn’t that Scherzer had to be pulled, it’s that no one was ready. MW may be more conservative next time and have someone warming up, just in case.

      • therealjohnc - May 7, 2015 at 12:01 AM

        Um, no. He had not thrown 114 pitches at the start of the inning, when the decision was made. That was his final pitch count. As MZ notes in the gamer above, Scherzer “was sitting at 101 pitches but had retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced.”

        Which are both facts that the MW haterz would be skewering him with had the bullpen given up the 3 runs in the 8th. You can hear them now: “mechancial reliance on pitch count” [etc etc]. I daresay some of those who would have been so skewering him are the same commenters who are complaining now about him leaving Scherzer in.

        Look, some of MW’s moves I just don’t get, and I criticize them. A couple of weeks ago in a one run game he not only left Uggla at 2b for the 9th inning, he left T-Mo in LF while having solid defensive options on the bench. And Uggla had made the final out in the Nats’ previous at bat – it was a situation that just screamed for a defensive replacement and he didn’t make the move. Got away with it, but I hated it.

        Scherzer today? Meh. As I said before, I can see reasons on both sides, so he gets a pass from me.

  9. Steady Eddie - May 6, 2015 at 6:04 PM

    Grrr. That’s “in ONE inning,” not “in be inning.”

    • virginiascopist - May 6, 2015 at 6:56 PM

      And that’s something I would like to hear, Scherzer’s internal motivations. He was apparently not shy about removing himself when he was with the Tigers. This was a good time to test Scherzer’s ability to self-evaluate, with a five-run lead. I have little doubt both Scherzer and MW would have handled it much differently had the lead been two or three. I realize the bullpen was a little taxed after yesterday, but not in terrible shape; plus everybody gets a day off tomorrow.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - May 6, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    I think it’s silly to believe these decisions — to pull or not to pull — are made bu one person, or in a vacuum. Ultimately it’s Williams’s decision but also all of these decisions are arrived at by a consensus of Williams, McCatty, Knorr and the pitcher. Every one of them knows better than any laptop kibitzer exactly what’s going on on the field. Now, there may be a heirarchy by which one “aye” out-votes three “nays,’ or it may be a pre-formed consensus, i.e, “in this situation, this is what I — we — are going to do,” but Williams does not pull these choices out of his ear. It’s always better to pull a pitcher one batter early than one batter too late. Also weighing is the Johnson maxim, “never give a pitcher a chance to lose the game.” That’s why it was right to remove Fister on Sunday and to leave Scherzer in today. Last week Williams left Gonzalez in for 112(?) pitches. How would it have been wrong to allow Scherzer to go signficantly beyond 100, to 110 or more?

    • Bruxtun - May 6, 2015 at 7:16 PM

      Good thoughts Theo +1

    • Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 8:41 PM

      +1 on this. The issue was not leaving him in to start the 8th. That was totally defensible. And I agree that lots of people have input on the decision (thought I doubt there’s a vote or a decision by committee). But leaving him in to face Stanton was not a good idea. And it seems like he did that because Roark wasn’t quite ready. That’s poor planning.

  11. rlndtln - May 6, 2015 at 6:28 PM

    MW is not a great game manager.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 6, 2015 at 7:00 PM

      Yeah. MOY his first season, and he’s not perfect YET? Fire the bum.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 6:37 PM

    From Ken Rosenthal:

    Told Strasburg issue was “a cramp.” Chiropractor adjusted him today, was throwing on field after game.

  13. Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 7:43 PM

    Interesting comments on the decision to leave Scherzer in. I have no problem with sending him out there for another inning with 104 pitches under his belt, given how well he was cruising. But that’s a situation where you really need to have Roark warming and ready to come in if necessary. And I do have a big problem with having a Scherzer pitch to Stanton after giving up two hits to start the inning. Seems to me that’s where the big mistake was made.

    • Nats Fan Zee - May 6, 2015 at 8:01 PM

      + 114

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 9:28 PM

      I didn’t have a problem with Scherzer coming out for the 8th but 1st sign of trouble you pull him. Starting an inning over 100 pitches kind of concerns me as the season is long and you need him for the long haul. As it turned out, Roark had to get 3 outs anyway.

      • Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 10:49 PM

        Exactly my point. MW said in the postgame presser that he thinks Max is good for 115. That’s fine with the bases empty, but he was right at the limit pitching to Stanton. Bad gamble. Luckily Tanner and Drew bailed him out.

      • manassasnatsfan - May 6, 2015 at 11:06 PM

        As soon as Gordon got a hit then bring in Roark.

      • ICYMI - May 6, 2015 at 11:30 PM

        Only problem with that is that Roark didn’t even start warming up until after Gordon got his hit.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM

        Didn’t know that. When you start the inning with 104 you should anticipate and not even push him that hard.

        A 5 run lead evaporated to 2 in the blink of an eye.

      • therealjohnc - May 7, 2015 at 12:12 AM

        I was at work, so was following on MLB gameday so didn’t quite track the pitch count at the time. But let’s do the math here. MZ said that Scherzer was sitting on 101 pitches after seven innings. Scherzer finished at 114. Even my liberal arts major lets me know that means Scherzer threw 13 pitches in the 9th.

        But in the gamer over on Federal Baseball, Patrick Reddington walks through Stanton’s at bats against Scherzer ($310M man vs. $210M man!). The final at bat was an eight pitch at bat.

        Which means that the first two runners reached in just five pitches. At the pace Scherzer works, it’s no wonder Roark wasn’t ready yet! To even be ready to come in after Stanton Roark had to be up, probably at the start of the inning.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2015 at 7:13 AM

        I think that a the point that Roark has to be up once the bottom of the 7th ended.

      • therealjohnc - May 7, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        Does anyone know that Roark wasn’t up during the break between innings? I’m not being flip, I’m actually curious. Getting a receiver hot and sparing the bullpen are goals in direct conflict there (warming in the bullpen causes wear and tear even if the pitcher doesn’t come in, a lesson that MW admitted he had to learn last season), so the likely compromise would be that Roark was just stretching and lob tossing between innings. Given that he probably wouldn’t have truly heated up his throws until the first batter reached. And again, given the space of five pitches from the start of the inning to Stanton’s at bat, my point is that even if Roark was up between innings he may not have been ready when Stanton stepped in

        And even with the worst case scenario, followed by the Stanton HR, the Nationals still had a two run lead. Having the five run lead was also a factor in how hard the pitcher would have been tossing in the ‘pen.

        And of course I stand by my assessment that, had MW put Roark in and Roark given up the 3 run bomb, many of the same commenters crucifying MW for leaving Scherzer in would be crucifying MW for taking Scherzer out. Maybe not all, but most. Possibly even including Boswell 🙂

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2015 at 10:21 AM

        Someone posted here yesterday (can’t remember who) that Roark didn’t get up until after the Gordon hit.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 7, 2015 at 10:25 AM

        Your last paragraph is the most telling and why the job of the manager is so tough but maybe the quick hook for Roark to face Prado after the hit by Gordon to leadoff?

        The fact the Nats won is a good sign that it was meant to be.

        Also having Solis to eat innings has helped the bullpen. Yes, you want your pitchers to go deep which was what Scherzer did going a full 7 IMHO.

      • nats128 - May 7, 2015 at 10:42 AM

        “ICYMI – May 6, 2015 at 11:30 PM
        Only problem with that is that Roark didn’t even start warming up until after Gordon got his hit.”

  14. Nats Fan Zee - May 6, 2015 at 8:08 PM

    “Trice” Harper had fun today!

  15. Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 8:27 PM

    Just watched the replay of the MASN broadcast of Harper’s second HR. What a blast! What struck me thought was that FP made a big deal of how the difference this year for Bryce is that he’s keeping his left foot on the ground when he swings, unlike his first few years when that foot would come off the ground. But the replay clearly shows that when he made contact his left foot was OFF the ground! Yeah, it came down after he hit the ball, but the replay is clear as day. Then they showed the replay again and FP finally noticed he was wrong, and said, his foot is almost on the ground.

    • natsdial8 - May 6, 2015 at 8:49 PM

      More ongoing FP balogna , however because it is a record day for 34 we will try not to pay any attention 🙂

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2015 at 9:24 PM

      I had to see what you were talking about and replayed it. I fell on the floor laughing as they showed it in slo-mo and you Bryce’s right foot clearly come off the ground.

      FP being FP.

      • Section 222 - May 6, 2015 at 10:51 PM

        I started typing my comment after seeing that. Only later did I realize that FP finally saw the replay again and realized he had spent the last minute making a point that was disproved by the very replay he was describing. His effort to salvage the whole thing was comical.

  16. sec105rowwseat28 - May 6, 2015 at 10:39 PM

    Speaking of Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa, mediocre manager Jim Riggleman ofor going either waynce said “He’s playing chess out there while the rest of us are playing checkers.” If that’s the case, then Matt Williams is playing tiddlywinks. A chess-playing manager is always looking several moves ahead, while the ordinary checkers player may look ahead one move. Matt Williams appears to make each and every decision in a complete vacuum, with no regard to what possible moves might become necessary going forward because of it. Case in point: Today’s decision to leave Scherzer in. Nothing wrong with that decision on its face, a persuasive case can be made for either of the two possible choices. But once Scherzer stays in, the assumption cannot be made that everything will go according to plan from then on. The prudent manager would have had a reliever warming up in the bullpen as soon as Scherzer took the mound to start the eighth, but Williams didn’t do that. The bullpen phone didn’t ring until Scherzer had already put the first two batters on, leaving not nearly enough time to get Roark warmed up to face Stanton. We all saw what happened there.

    It would seem Thomas Boswell agrees with me here.

    • scmargenau - May 6, 2015 at 10:50 PM

      Well said. MW is just not a good manager. It’s sad and unfortunate.

    • tcostant - May 7, 2015 at 9:43 AM

      Thank you!!!

  17. manassasnatsfan - May 6, 2015 at 11:09 PM

    One game at a time, one series at a time.

    Let’s win 2 of 3 from the Braves

  18. trom1 - May 7, 2015 at 12:21 AM

    I think people make too much of in game “decisions”.

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