Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Bryce's 1st career leadoff HR sets tone in win

Adams homers again as Nationals win fourth in a row
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Initially, the switch was going to be temporary. But after the past two games -- including Wednesday's 9-3 victory over the Pirates at Nationals Park -- it appears the new-look Nats' lineup with Bryce Harper at the top is here to stay. Batting first for the second consecutive game, Harper swatted his first career leadoff home run, setting the pace for another big night for Washington's offense.

Harper went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and three RBIs, including his 10th home run of the season, which was hammered 416 feet over the center-field wall against right-hander Ivan Nova. Harper's performance, combined with the hot hitting of Matt Adams -- who homered for the third time in two games -- and another strong start from Stephen Strasburg helped lead the Nats to their fourth consecutive victory.

View Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Initially, the switch was going to be temporary. But after the past two games -- including Wednesday's 9-3 victory over the Pirates at Nationals Park -- it appears the new-look Nats' lineup with Bryce Harper at the top is here to stay. Batting first for the second consecutive game, Harper swatted his first career leadoff home run, setting the pace for another big night for Washington's offense.

Harper went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and three RBIs, including his 10th home run of the season, which was hammered 416 feet over the center-field wall against right-hander Ivan Nova. Harper's performance, combined with the hot hitting of Matt Adams -- who homered for the third time in two games -- and another strong start from Stephen Strasburg helped lead the Nats to their fourth consecutive victory.

View Full Game Coverage

Video: PIT@WSH: Adams clubs an opposite-field solo home run

"We'll let it ride," manager Dave Martinez said. "The boys are doing well. [Harper's] getting pitched to a little bit, and he's swinging the bat well. So we'll keep it going. Matt Adams is doing awesome, too. They all are."

It's the first time the Nats have won four in a row since starting the season with four straight wins. Washington will have the chance to sweep the Pirates on Thursday afternoon and pull to .500 for the first time since April 20.

Despite the Nationals' uneven play to start the season, the team has been able to count on its starting pitching. Strasburg continued that trend Wednesday by striking out 11 in seven innings of three-run ball, with only two of those runs earned.

Video: PIT@WSH: Strasburg strikes out 11 in win vs. Pirates

The Nationals' new-look lineup gave Strasburg plenty of support, but it was their star outfielder who was in the middle of most of the scoring action.

Switching Harper up in the batting order was an effort to get him more pitches to hit, and so far the move has worked out. This was his second consecutive game with a home run after he snapped a 12-game homerless drought on Tuesday night, Harper's first game batting in the leadoff spot since 2013.

Video: PIT@WSH: Harper discusses big game from leadoff spot

After each home run, Harper has embraced Martinez with a big hug, perhaps to show his gratitude for using an unconventional tactic to break him from his slump. Harper hustled to beat out a double-play grounder in the fourth inning to allow a run to score and added a run-scoring single in the fifth.

"I think just going out there and getting some pitches to hit, I was able to do that tonight and get us some runs up there on the board," Harper said. "Everybody contributed tonight."

Video: PIT@WSH: Harper ropes RBI single to score Stevenson

These lineup alterations have paid dividends to wake up the Nationals, who have now scored 21 runs in the past two games. And they could be getting a key reinforcement soon, with third baseman Anthony Rendon about to begin a Minor League rehab assignment Thursday. But for now, these Nats have found a lineup that works, because Harper has set the tone at the top. He is 4-for-8 with two home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored in two games since being moved up to the leadoff spot.

"The big thing is getting Bryce pitches to hit," Adams said. "I think that's a big thing. When you look at our lineup no matter what it is, one through nine, pretty tough. Whatever lineup we throw out there we can put runs across the board."

Video: PIT@WSH: Adams plates Harper with a single to right

SOUND SMART
With one out in the fourth inning and runners at the corners, Nova induced a ground ball from Harper that could have helped him escape the jam. But Harper raced down the first-base line at 29.5 feet per second, his fastest run by sprint speed this season as tracked by Statcast™, allowing Pedro Severino to score from third. That number is right near the elite-speed threshold, and 0.1 ft/sec behind the fastest baserunning sprint speed Statcast™ has ever tracked from Harper.

Video: PIT@WSH: Harper pushes across Severino to extend lead

"We've got guys that can run, too," Martinez said. "A guy on third base, ground ball first and third, Bryce beat out a double-play ball. ... Those are runs, and those are important."

HE SAID IT
"If you give him a walk, he's going to take it. If you give him something good to hit, he's going to take advantage of it." -- Nova, on Harper

UP NEXT
The Nationals and Pirates wrap up a four-game series on Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park when Jeremy Hellickson matches up against Trevor Williams, in a game available on MLB Network outside the D.C. area. Hellickson has steadied the Nats' fifth starter spot in three starts since joining the team's rotation. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper