ANAHEIM -- Meetings on the field between this pair of generational talents are rare. Because they are separated by different coasts and different leagues they do not often share the same stage. The Nationals' 4-3 victory Tuesday night was just the second time they even shared the same field during
ANAHEIM -- Meetings on the field between this pair of generational talents are rare. Because they are separated by different coasts and different leagues they do not often share the same stage. The Nationals' 4-3 victory Tuesday night was just the second time they even shared the same field during the regular season. And it is because of performances such as this that Bryce Harper and Michael Trout are perhaps destined to be linked together their entire careers.
Harper and Trout began the game by trading solo home runs in the first inning at Angel Stadium, trading blows as if not wanting to be outdone by the other. Harper won this baseball version of H-O-R-S-E, finishing the night 4-for-4 and just inches away from hitting for the cycle. Trout hit his longest home run since September 2015, but it was his only hit in four at-bats.
"It's fun when we're on the field," Trout said. "You don't get to see it often. He's on the East Coast, but when we play each other, it's a fun battle. He brings 100 percent to the field every day, and when he's locked in, he's obviously fun to watch."
Their most recent matchup was back in April 2014, back when neither had won an MVP Award. Now they have already accomplished so much during their young careers and are perhaps the two biggest stars in baseball.
Harper is a five-time All-Star, won the 2012 National League Rookie of the year Award and was the 2015 NL MVP. Trout is a six-time All-Star, the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and has already won two AL MVP Awards -- in 2014 and '16. If Trout is widely recognized as the best player in baseball, Harper is the leading candidate for No. 2.
"He's a great player," Harper said. "Of course, two-time MVP, comes out and plays hard every single day. He's a talent that comes around once in a lifetime. He's must-watch TV, always. To be able to see him and what he's done out here is very impressive."
Harper struck first in the top of the first, homering off right-hander Jesse Chavez over Trout's head in center field. The hit extended Harper's hitting streak to 13 games, matching a career best.
Trout answered in the bottom of the inning, by crushing a solo homer of his own to left-center field at a projected distance of 448 feet, as tracked by Statcast™, off right-hander Edwin Jackson. It was Trout's first home run since being activated off the disabled list last week.
The two chatted at second base during a third-inning review of Harper's slide into second while trying to stretch a two-out single into a double. He was called out and the call would stand after the Nationals' challenge. The play would loom large later in the game, after Harper collected a pair of singles and then tripled in the eighth inning -- going from first to home in 11.28 seconds, the fastest triple for the Nats this season. It would leave him just a few inches shy of the cycle.
Harper seemed to play with some extra intensity Tuesday night, but he insisted that he felt no extra motivation for this matchup with Trout. Instead, he extended himself knowing that he and Nationals manager Dusty Baker had agreed to give him the day off during Wednesday night's series finale.
"We're friends on the field," Trout said. "I don't really know him that well, but, obviously, you play with him and you be compared to each other -- we see each other when we play each other."
Now they'll wait until next time.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.