Harper homers as Nats beat Miami for 11th straight time, 5-2
MIAMI (AP) — Bryce Harper's recent hitting funk will come as news to the folks at the Metro Grill, located on the right field concourse at Marlins Park.
Harper sent customers scurrying when he deposited a majestic drive near the cashier's counter for his NL-leading 16th home run Sunday, and the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep by beating the Miami Marlins for the 11th time in a row, 5-2.
Harper struck out eight times in the series but pulled a pitch from lefty Jarlin Garcia inside the foul pole leading off the sixth inning.
"That was a bomb," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "To hit a ball like that against a left-handed pitcher, that's a good sign."
Harper added a sacrifice fly in the seventh. He's on pace for 118 RBIs but is batting .232, and his annoyance showed Saturday when he shattered a bat in the dugout after striking out.
But he said he'll trade whiffs for home runs — and victories.
"I'm not really too frustrated, because we're winning games," he said. "If I hit .230 and I hit 40, I'll take it any day of the week."
Harper's teammates were in a slugging mood, too. Anthony Rendon hit his fifth home run for the Nationals, who lead the league in homers. Wilmer Difo had a double and a triple, and 19-year-old newcomer Juan Soto doubled for his fourth extra-base hit in seven games.
With another victory in Miami, the Nationals matched the longest winning streak in franchise history against one team. It's the Marlins' longest losing streak against an opponent since 1999.
"They've got some pretty decent pitching, but they're young," Martinez said. "It's not easy."
Stephen Strasburg (6-4) pitched five shutout innings and contributed his first RBI of the season , but departed after throwing 103 pitches. He has thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings against the Marlins, and improved his record against them to 16-7 in 29 starts.
"I wouldn't say I pitch to any certain team differently," Strasburg said. "It's just baseball. You get away with some pitches, and you get beat on some good pitches. Today I was more on the side of getting away with some."
Brandon Kintzler pitched around a single in the ninth for his second save. The Nationals have outscored the Marlins 71-20 in their past 11 meetings.
"They're a talented club, so you're going to have to fight for your wins all the time," Miami manager Don Mattingly said.
Miami's Justin Bour hit his 10th homer, but mostly it was another dismal offensive effort by the Marlins, who rank last in the majors in runs, home runs, slugging and OPS.
"We couldn't get a whole lot going," Mattingly said. "That was just kind of the theme of the series in general."
Washington hit for the cycle against Elieser Hernandez (0-2), who allowed two runs in five innings in his third career start.
ON THE RISE
Despite a wave of early season injuries, the Nationals (29-22) are seven games above .500 for the first time. They improved to 17-8 on the road, best in the NL, and continue their 10-game trip in Baltimore beginning Monday.
"We've just got to keep being ourselves," Harper said. "We're playing some good baseball."
When Strasburg batted with a runner at first and nobody out in the third in a scoreless game, he swung at the second pitch and grounded into a double play. Trea Turner then bunted with two out and was thrown out.
Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy, recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee, and OF Brian Goodwin (left wrist) played seven innings each Saturday in their first rehab games at Double-A Harrisburg. Both are scheduled to take Monday off, and they're expected to play at least a couple of entire games before joining the Nationals. ... RHP Ryan Madson (chest strain) is expected to throw a bullpen session soon and may not need a rehab stint.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.38 ERA) is scheduled to start Monday against the Orioles.
Marlins: LHP Caleb Smith (3-5, 3.83 ERA) is scheduled to start Monday when Miami begins a 10-game trip with a four-game series at San Diego.