ATLANTA -- There is perhaps no city where Bryce Harper gets booed louder and more consistently than in Atlanta. The crowd of 25,054 fans at SunTrust Park serenaded him with boos each time he stepped up to the plate Monday night during the Nationals' 8-1 victory. As he stepped into
ATLANTA -- There is perhaps no city where Bryce Harper gets booed louder and more consistently than in Atlanta. The crowd of 25,054 fans at SunTrust Park serenaded him with boos each time he stepped up to the plate Monday night during the Nationals' 8-1 victory. As he stepped into the batter's box for his second plate appearance, in the second inning, the organist played the song, "Imperial March."
But Harper plays the role of villain better than anyone here these days. He promptly punished the first pitch he saw from left-hander Sean Newcomb into the stands in center field for a three-run home run. It was his third home run of the season to continue a fast start to Harper's 2018, the final year of his contract in Washington.
• Harper homers after Braves' organist plays 'Imperial March' for his walk-up music
This performance capped an impressive run dating back to Sunday in which he reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances, on three home runs and five walks, before he grounded out in the ninth inning.
"He's so dang good," Nationals right-hander Shawn Kelley said. "He's going to be worth every penny. He's a game changer. With the guys we have behind him, you can't really just put him on because look what happens when he walks, he scores. He's a game-changer."
Washington followed a familiar formula for its victory Monday night, scoring in the first inning for the fourth consecutive game, another strong starting pitching performance adding to Harper's contribution in the middle of the lineup. It helped the Nats improve to 4-0 to start the season for the first time in team history.
It took two batters to score the first run of the game, after Trea Turner reached on an error, advanced to third after an errant pickoff throw and then scored easily on a groundout. The Nationals have yet to trail in any of the first 36 innings this season, the longest streak to start a season in franchise history, according to Elias.
"That's a great weight off your shoulders," said right-hander Tanner Roark, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball. "That's what this team's capable of. And you build confidence as well. You go out there and you want to put up a quick inning and get in as fast as possible, and get them back out to the plate."
Roark did just that and this Washington offense continued to punish another pitching staff. The Nationals have scored first in each game, often tacking on runs late to extend their lead, and have the presence of Harper in the middle of the lineup, in the midst of another strong start to the season.
"He's one of the best," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I'm glad I get to watch him play every day, and hopefully he continues to do what he's doing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early errors:Freddie Freeman fumbled Turner's grounder to open the game. After issuing consecutive walks to Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, Newcomb delivered a center-cut fastball that Howie Kendrick drilled against the brick wall in right field. Harper paused to make sure Nick Markakis did not catch the ball that caromed back toward the infield. Center fielder Ender Inciarte's throw to the plate was in time to retire Harper, but catcher Chris Stewart dropped the ball.
Squandered opportunity: When Kendrick dropped Dansby Swanson's long drive to left-center field, the Braves had two in scoring position with none out in the fifth. But Ryan Flaherty, who had recorded eight hits in his previous 14 at-bats, silenced the threat by striking out. Roark then retired Stewart and pinch hitter Lane Adams to escape unscathed.
It was strong start to the season for Roark, who reverted back to his normal wind-up after experimenting during Spring Training following input from aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
"Just getting back to feeling the way I usually feel," Roark said. "Just making sure everything's smooth and slow and then go."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Monday marked the fifth game in his career that Harper has walked four times. To put it in perspective, Joey Votto, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays only had four such games in their careers.
• Martinez became just the fourth first-time manager in the past 25 years to begin his career 4-0. Clint Hurdle (6-0 in 2002) is the first.
After spending the past few seasons as a spot starter, right-hander A.J. Cole cracked the Nats' starting rotation as the club's fifth starter. He will have his first shot at keeping the job on Tuesday night against the Braves in Game 2 of the three-game series. First pitch is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
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Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.