Harper homers twice, lifts Nats over Marlins
MIAMI -- Propelled by two towering Bryce Harper home runs for his National League-leading 28th and 29th blasts of the year, the Nationals beat the Marlins, 7-2, on Wednesday night at Marlins Park to even the three-game set. Harper's first homer to right field came in the fifth inning and broke a 2-2 tie to back a strong outing from starter Doug Fister.
Marlins starter Tom Koehler took the loss in a rare rough outing at home. The righty entered having allowed just nine earned runs in 48 1/3 innings this season at Marlins Park (1.68 ERA), but Washington got to him for five earned runs on six hits in six innings.
"It's a shame," Koehler said. "I feel like I pitched well and gave up a couple hits there and made one really bad pitch [to Harper] that kind of blew up my outing a little bit. That's tough."
Fister (4-6, 4.39 ERA) also went six innings, but allowed just two runs on four hits. Marlins right fielder Ichiro Suzuki notched two of those hits -- including an RBI double -- as he boosted his Major League hit total to 2,901. Michael Taylor followed Harper's homer in the eighth with a solo shot of his own, his ninth of the season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Harper's power: The Nationals scored their first five runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Harper highlighted the scoring with a mammoth three-run homer in the fifth off Koehler -- his fifth career shot off the righty. The ball hit the upper deck and bounced on to the field. Harper also hit a monster home run in the eighth off reliever Sam Dyson.
"The home runs were definitely exciting. I'm definitely happy about that," Harper said. "But all in all, we have our team back and this lineup back. ... We are going to keep getting better and better. It's going to be a fun stretch the next two months." More >
Fister keeps ball down: Fister had his best outing since the All-Star break, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out four batters over his six innings. He induced six groundouts.
"He worked ahead. He had a good slider today against the lefties. He had a better changeup," manager Matt Williams said. "I thought his tempo was good. He probably could have [pitched one more inning], but Casey [Janssen] hasn't pitched and Drew [Storen] in four or five days. So I want to get them in a game, too."
Koehler bit by two-out lightning: Koehler was strong through the first four innings, and after getting the first two outs of the fifth, he seemed destined for another strong home outing. But then the righty allowed singles to Yunel Escobar and Jayson Werth before Harper tagged him for a three-run shot to push the Nationals' lead to 5-2. The Washington two-out rally eventually led to Koehler's second home loss of the season.
"That was the first time in a while that Tommy has struggled with command," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "He was able to get through six, but he got two strikes on Harper and then really just missed right down the middle with the pitch. The guy's a good hitter. When you make mistakes like that, he's gonna make you pay."
Ichiro inches closer to milestone: With a second-inning RBI double, Suzuki notched hit No. 2,900 of his MLB career to creep closer to joining the prestigious 3,000-hit club. He followed with hit 2,901 in the fourth inning -- a single that help set up Adeiny Hechavarria's RBI base hit. More >
"It was a bad sequence that unfortunately led to a guy that's clearly seeing the ball really well off me. I tried to go fastball down and away, yanked it middle in and he did what he's been doing all year." -- Koehler on the three-run homer he allowed to Harper, who hit three homers off the righty in Washington on May 6
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Harper has reached base in a career-high 25 consecutive games. During that stretch, Harper has 28 hits and 19 walks in 106 plate appearances. The 25-game streak is the longest by a Nationals player in 2015.
Nationals: The Nats look to win the series with their ace, Max Scherzer, on the mound Thursday. Game time is 12:10 p.m. ET. In his last start against the Pirates on Friday, Scherzer surrendered five runs. But in the starts directly following two other five-run outings this year, Scherzer owns a 2-0 record and a 1.72 ERA.
Marlins: Potential trade candidate Dan Haren (7-6, 3.51 ERA) looks to continue his strong pitching at home in the series finale. In 10 starts at Marlins Park, he holds a 2.83 ERA.
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