Braves tip their caps to hot-hitting Harper
Nationals' star is youngest to smack five homers in two-game span
WASHINGTON -- For Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, the best indicator of how well Bryce Harper is swinging the bat is that there is so little wasted movement when he is at the plate.
"You can tell from the dugout," Gonzalez said of the Nationals' right fielder. "His head is not moving. He's right there. He's locked in."
That is putting it mildly.
Harper's two home runs and five RBIs in the Nationals' 9-2 victory over the Braves on Friday gave him five home runs and 10 RBIs in his past two games. According to Elias, Harper, 22, is the youngest to hit five homers in a two-game span.
"That's special," Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "That's a special month for a lot of people and he's done it in two days."
Harper wasn't the only Nationals player doing damage on Friday night. Washington scored all its runs on five home runs, including a two-run blow and a solo shot by Danny Espinosa and a solo blast by Jayson Werth.
But it was Harper who sent the crowd of 31,288 at Nationals Park into a frenzy with his second home run, a three-run blow off Williams Perez that highlighted Washington's five-run eighth inning.
"He's a special guy, a special talent," Gonzalez said. "This guy has grown up in the Major Leagues under a microscope and I think he's done a pretty good job about it."
The Braves actually were in pretty good shape through 5 1/3 innings as starter Eric Stults nursed a 2-1 lead. But the left-hander left a fastball up to Harper, who hit a two-run blow to left-center field that gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead.
"Not a good pitch," Stults said. "It was a fastball that was elevated and it's kind of in his swing path. If you put it there, he's going to hit it. So give him credit. He's swinging well and I didn't execute a pitch."
The bullpen couldn't hold the Nationals down either as Perez, making his Major League debut, Brandon Cunniff and Trevor Cahill also gave up home runs.
"They're hot right now," Stults said of the Nationals, who have won eight of 10. "They're swinging the bat well. They're not missing many pitches and they're a team that can do some damage. They have guys who can drive the ball. It's just a matter of trying to execute pitches, and tonight we didn't do enough of it."
What to do about cooling the red-hot Harper, who is batting .284 with 10 home runs, tied for the National League lead, and 25 RBIs?
"Maybe tomorrow we tell him what's coming," Gonzalez said, "and maybe we'll get him out of his hot streak."