WASHINGTON -- Battling through an illness and a tough stretch at the plate, Bryce Harper broke through late Monday afternoon to propel the Nationals to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Cardinals at Nationals Park on Labor Day.
Harper, who was without a homer in his previous 61 at-bats, crushed a game-tying two-run bomb in the ninth inning and delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th.
The Nationals' chances of pulling out a victory seemed slim until Harper stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth and Trea Turner on first base. The slugger worked St. Louis closer Bud Norris to a 3-1 count before getting his pitch, a two-seamer over the heart of the plate. He swung hard, crushing the ball a massive 451 feet to straightaway center to tie the score.
"[Harper] is one of those guys in the lineup you kind of circle, or you have to," said Greg Holland, who fired a pair of scoreless frames and was credited with the win. "You can't make any mistakes. ... It seems like the bigger the situation, the better he is."
Max Scherzer, the National League Cy Young Award winner in each of the past two seasons, recorded all three outs in the first inning via strikeout en route to reaching the 250-strikeout threshold for the fifth straight season. He joins Randy Johnson (six straight seasons from 1997-2002) as the only two pitchers in history to have achieved the feat.
"I've played with some guys who are really good, but he's one of the best right-handed starting pitchers I've seen," manager Dave Martinez said. "His work ethic is beyond anything I've seen, and that's daily. That's not just every fifth day. He's got a game plan for tomorrow all the way through his next start. I'm proud of him, it's well deserved."
Despite surrendering a two-run single to St. Louis shortstop Paul DeJong in the opening frame, Scherzer cruised for much of the afternoon, completing seven innings for the 12th time in 2018 and finishing with 11 strikeouts. The performance is his 15th of the season with double-digit K's.
Turner provided the early offense for Washington, crushing his 17th home run of the season in his first at-bat. The offense as a whole squandered multiple chances to eat into the Cardinals' lead in the middle innings, leaving 15 runners on base, but came through when it needed it most.
"Every time he's called upon, he does something to help us win, so I was just glad he went the other way," Martinez said. "I joke around with him, but I do tell him, 'You do know there's another side of the field.' And he's showing it now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The relief effort of right-hander Justin Miller helped save the day for Washington. After fellow reliever Jimmy Cordero loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, Martinez called upon Miller to get his club out of trouble.
Miller worked flawlessly out of the jam, inducing a double play before fanning Marcell Ozuna to escape without allowing a run.
"I always got told if you can get out of a bases-loaded situation, no outs, just giving up one run, then you did a good job," Miller said. "But I think I did a little better than that."
HE SAID IT
"I was hoping his lung didn't come out. He's bending over, and I'm like, 'Holy moly.' And then his last at-bat he bent over, too, and I'm thinking, 'Oh no.' But he battled through it. After the game you want to hug him, whatever, but you're kind of like, 'All right, nice going.'" -- Martinez, on Harper battling through his illness
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Third baseman Anthony Rendon ripped a line drive to left following Harper's game-tying blast in the ninth. Ozuna raced in from left field and slid, snaring the ball for the second out of the inning. But Martinez wasn't convinced Ozuna caught it and elected to challenge the play. After a review of one minute and 27 seconds, the call stood.
Right-hander Erick Fedde returns to the mound on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET for the first time since July 4, when he threw a scoreless inning vs. the Red Sox before departing with an injured right shoulder. It will be his first career outing vs. the Cardinals, who send Miles Mikolas to the hill.