Nats get the Harper-Murphy surge they've been waiting for

Chris Lingebach
June 25, 2018 - 12:52 pm
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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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Down four runs after five innings and a 45-minute rain delay, the Nationals' bats exploded late in Sunday's 8-6 win over the Phillies, a show of force the club has long been missing in 2018.

Washington hammered out six unanswered runs on nine hits in the comeback victory, taking the lead during a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth that scored three runs on the bats of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Michael A. Taylor.

It was the type of run production the Nats should envision with Murphy and Harper hitting back to back. But Murphy has struggled to find his form in 12 games back from offseason knee surgery, which caused him to miss the first 64 regular-season games, and Harper's been anyone but himself, trying to snap out of the worst slump of his career.

Entering Sunday's game hitting .212 with 19 home runs, 45 RBI and 57 walks, Harper struck out in his first two-at bats, and then struck it big, doubling in each of his next three plate appearances. Harper's first double came off former Nats prospect Nick Pivetta in the bottom of the fifth. Alex Rodriguez, a game analyst for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," remarked that Harper could break out with a swing like that, crunching a 95 MPH first-pitch fastball into the left-center field gap. Harper doubled twice more on the night.

The Nationals took over with two runners on and two out in the eighth, after Phillies manager Gabe Kapler chose to intentionally walk Juan Soto and allow Seranthony Dominguez to pitch to Murphy with the bases loaded. Again Rodriguez peered into the future, saying Kapler should have taken his chances with Soto rather than Murphy, "the toughest out in the National League over the last two years."

Murphy delivered, digging a slider out of the dirt and pushing it over the second baseman on a half-swing that dropped cleanly into right field, scoring the game-tying and go-ahead runs. Taylor added an insurance run on a line-drive single in the next at-bat, 8-6. And Sean Doolittle closed it out in the ninth for his 21st save of the season.

In total, the Nats scored eight runs on 17 hits on the night.

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