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Harper returns unexpectedly and homers

Jun 21, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

Jun 20, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) is congratulated by third base coach Bob Henley (14) after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Hours before Max Scherzer made history against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Nationals revealed the surprising news that Bryce Harper was back in the lineup just 36 hours after suffering what first appeared to be a very scary injury.

Harper left Thursday’s game after falling to the ground on a throw attempt and grimaced in pain as teammates and head trainer Lee Kuntz ran to his aid. It was diagnosed as a mild hamstring and no timetable was given.

But then Harper texted manager Matt Williams Saturday morning and said he was ready to play, so he did. And, in true Harper fashion, he played well.

Harper homered in his second at-bat on a hanging slider by Pirates’ starter Francisco Liriano. He smoked it 436 feet to straightaway center field.

Harper established a career-high with the swing, as it was his 23rd homer of the season. He hit 22 as a rookie back in 2012.

“I felt alright. I was in the lineup. That’s what I wanted to do,” Harper said. “This team needs me and I’m gonna cowboy up every single day I can play and if I can’t go that day then I’ll let ‘em know.”

“We trust our guys that when they tell us they are ok to go, they are ok to go,” Williams added.

“It’s nice to see that he’s healthy. I was definitely scared,” Danny Espinosa said. “I didn’t really know what happened, if it was his knee at first, or what happened. Fortunately it was just a minor strain and he was able to come back today and show that he’s alright.”

Harper now has 10 homers in the 14 games Scherzer has pitched this season. That means Harper has homered in 71 percent of Scherzer’s outings.

Harper says that may not be a coincidence.

“Going out there and seeing a guy pitch like that every single day. Seeing a guy going every single start wanting to win, things like that. It just gets you locked in even more,” he said. “I just put some good swings on some balls and was able to get a lot done. I told him ‘you keep pitching like that, I’ll keep hitting homers.’”

Harper admittedly feeds off Scherzer, and Scherzer said it went both ways on Saturday. Harper’s homer helped fire Scherzer up.

“It just shows you how much of a competitor he is. His leg’s all bruised up, his hammy’s tight and he’s out there competing, battling through injury,” Scherzer explained.

“When I see somebody else going out there and competing like that, obviously hitting a home run, it just motivates you to keep competing as hard as you can. And I think it just kind of keeps going back and forth. The more he does it, the more I want to do it. The more I do it, the more he wants to do it. So I feel like the rest of the team picks up on it as well.”

Harper also added an RBI single in the sixth inning. His return is obviously a great sign for the Nationals, who are already missing regulars Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. Barring a setback, he’s all systems go.

“We need him. We need him to be in there,” Williams said. “Came out of it fine, so I don’t anticipate any further issues with it.”

  1. natsjackinfl - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    The effect Scherzer has on this team is even more positive than the one Werth brings. It is so obvious that this team is led by the most dynamic young hitter and the most driven pitcher in the game.

    We are fortunate to have both Bryce and Max to represent this franchise.

    • Jfmii - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:01 AM

      Agree wholeheartedly

    • Bruxtun - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:06 AM

      Scherzer is worth more than just his pitching stats and who knows, he could do a lot to keep Bryce here in the future. Those two could become a duo for the ages.

      • adcwonk - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        “who knows, he could do a lot to keep Bryce here in the future.”

        Amen to that!!!!

  2. adcwonk - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    I thought comments about Tabata were over the top last night. No team wants to get no-hit, even more be the short end of a perfect game. Be competitive until the last out.

    See the article below. Scherzer went well beyond being gracious. He even said he would have done the same thing.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2015/06/20/max-scherzers-classy-response-to-jose-tabata/?tid=HP_sports?tid=HP_sports

    • natsdial8 - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

      Good observation Wonk – maybe all three guys in the ninth should have whiffed on purpose because WTH it was 6-0 anyway. 🙂

      • adcwonk - Jun 21, 2015 at 12:08 PM

        Well put.

        Add in: the Pirates’ most likely chance for playoffs is via wildcard. They need every win they can get.

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