WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper led the hitting barrage on Wednesday night, and the Nationals pounded the Dodgers, 8-1, at Nationals Park.It was Harper who put Washington ahead in the first inning off right-hander Bud Norris. After Daniel Murphy doubled with two outs, Harper swung at a 3-1 pitch and launched
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper led the hitting barrage on Wednesday night, and the Nationals pounded the Dodgers, 8-1, at Nationals Park.
It was Harper who put Washington ahead in the first inning off right-hander Bud Norris. After Daniel Murphy doubled with two outs, Harper swung at a 3-1 pitch and launched the ball into the third deck in right field for a two-run homer, his 20th. It marked the fourth time Harper has hit 20 home runs in a season.
The twist was that manager Dusty Baker had considered giving Harper the day off, but after having a talk with his slugger and telling him to "slow his feel down and have quick hands" in the batter's box, he changed his mind.
• Harper launches moon shot into third deck
"I was trying to square some pitches up, not miss the ones that are over the plate," Harper said. "I was given a pitch to handle tonight, and I did some damage on it. If I keep doing that, it's going to be fun."
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez got off to a slow start. By the second inning, he had thrown 42 pitches, and Los Angeles took advantage, scoring its only run in that inning when Scott Van Slyke scored on a single by Charlie Culberson to cut the lead in half. Gonzalez went on to pitch six innings and allow the one run on three hits.
"I just pound the strike zone," Gonzalez said. "Today they managed to get some pitches out of me early. As soon as I [settled down], I went out there and attacked the strike zone. [Catcher Willie Ramos] and I did a great job as far as mixing up the pitches and throwing some off-speed [pitches] that I wanted for strikes."
It was all Nats after that. Norris was on the mound in the fifth inning when Ben Revere and Jayson Werth hit back-to-back home runs to make it a 4-1 game. This is the 12th time this season the Nationals have hit back-to-back home runs.
Before Revere and Werth took him deep, Norris had retired 12 batters in a row. He got two strikes on Revere and thought he had a punchout on a fastball near the zone, then allowed the homer on the next pitch.
"I thought I made a pitch on a 2-2 that could have been real close, and I guess I had a mental lapse there," Norris said. "And then, same with the next at-bat with Werth. I get ahead in the count, and unfortunately, I can't execute and put a guy away."
In the following inning, Harper scored on a double by Ramos. After Norris left the game, Louis Coleman allowed an RBI triple to Trea Turner, who then stole home on a double steal.
"You hate to be so dependent on the homer, but we'll take it. That's a big part of our offense," Baker said. "I was impressed with Trea's baserunning and his speed. It was fun to watch him play, see him run."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Norris stumbles early: After getting two straight outs to start the game, Norris allowed four straight hits, including Harper's deep home run, spotting the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Whereas Harper's blast came on a fastball, the other three hits -- a double by Daniel Murphy and singles by Ramos and Rendon -- all came on sliders. Norris went on to retire 12 consecutive batters before allowing two more homers, but the Dodgers never overcame the initial deficit.
"Bud's been throwing the ball really well for us, and today he left some balls up," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "And they hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Nats pull a double steal: When Turner swiped home, it was the third time the Nationals pulled off the feat since 2005. The last member of the Nationals to steal home was Harper, on May 6, 2012, against the Phillies. Ian Desmond was the first, in 2011.
"It was a big play. It was fun, it was exciting. I'm glad I was safe," Turner said. "[Third-base coach Bob] Henley told me numerous times to be ready for [the double steal], but we didn't have a play on. I saw the infield kind of shift, and I thought something was coming, either a pickoff toward me or a pickoff [at first]. I was ready for anything. I made the decision, and it worked out." More >
Culberson contributes in return: Culberson didn't waste any time getting reacquainted with the big leagues after arriving from Triple-A earlier in the day as a roster replacement for the injured Chris Hatcher and getting the start at shortstop. In his first at-bat, with two men on, he singled home a run on a line drive to right field.
"I got in a good hitter's count, got a good pitch to hit, and I barreled it up," Culberson said. "I'll take that any day, especially my first at-bat back." More >
Proving his Werth: By homering in the fifth inning, Werth has reached base in 24 straight games, the longest active streak in Major League Baseball.
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According to Baseball-Reference.com, Harper is the 12th player in MLB history to record four 20-plus-homer seasons prior to his 24th birthday.
Dodgers: The Dodgers will send 19-year-old phenom Julio Urías to pitch the final game of the three-game set on Thursday at 9:05 a.m. PT. Urias experienced some ups and downs during his first tour of the big leagues earlier this season, posting a 4.95 ERA in eight starts. One of the lefty's better starts came against the Nationals on June 22, when he allowed two runs in five innings.
Nationals: On Thursday at 12:05 p.m. ET, Stephen Strasburg will look to improve upon his unbeaten record after becoming the first National League starter to begin a season 13-0 since 1912. The last pitcher to start a season 14-0 was Roger Clemens, in 1986 with the Red Sox.
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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Dodgers on Wednesday.