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Harper crushes 22nd HR to tie career high

Slugger ranks second in Majors in long balls behind Marlins' Stanton

ST. PETERSBURG -- Bryce Harper joined the Nationals' hit parade and showed once again that he is "The Nat-ural." He went 3-for-3 and tied his career high by belting his 22nd home run of the season as the Nationals routed the Rays, 16-4, at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Harper and other #ASGWorthy players

Harper ranks second in the Major Leagues in home runs behind Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who belted his 24th home run, against the Yankees, on Tuesday.

Video: [email protected]: Stanton goes the other way for 24th home run

The Nationals already had a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning, when Harper swung at a 1-1 pitch from C.J. Riefenhauser and hit the ball over the right center-field fence. The ball landed in the Rays' fish tank.

According to Statcast™, the ball was projected to land 443 feet from the plate. It was Harper's fifth home run this season of 440 feet or longer, which is tied with Stanton for the most in the Majors.

Manager Matt Williams was more impressed with Harper's at-bat against left-hander Ed Romero in the sixth inning. Harper reached base on an infield single.

"Harp's AB against the second lefty, who throws extremely hard, was a good one. The ball went off the first-base glove," Williams said.

Harper previously reached the 22-home-run mark in his rookie year of 2012. That season, he needed 139 games to reach 22 dingers. Tuesday, he did it in his 63rd game. He was never able to go higher than 22 home runs in '13 and '14 because of knee and hand injuries.

Although Harper reached a personal milestone on Tuesday, he focused more on the home run hit by Clint Robinson in the second inning. Robinson had arguably the highlight of the night against right-hander Alex Colome in that frame. On a 3-1 pitch, the left-handed-hitting Robinson hit a monster home run that landed in the right-field catwalk.

Video: Must C Crushed: Robinson's homer vanishes

"That was a bomb," Harper said. "Being able to put something up there, a little 'Natural'-esque with the thunder and lightning on the outside. That was truly incredible. I went up to him and told him congrats, and you know, 'You punished that ball.' It was good to see."

Harper saw his average climb to .346, his highest point since the first week of the season. After the game, Harper wasn't talking about his own statistics. He was happy to see the team come out with a victory.

"I feel like we looked like an American League team tonight," Harper said. "We had a lot of fun as a team. We were able to put up some runs on the board for [right-hander] Tanner [Roark] early and I think that was huge for us tonight."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper