Plenty to pull out of late-night thriller out west

I have a question, one raised by a buddy of mine late last night.

How would have the sports world have reacted if Bryce Harper had hit a game-winning home run and responded as Matt Kemp did after his walk-off blast yesterday - extending his arm, tossing his bat, prancing towards home plate and chucking his helmet high in the air?

I think Twitter and ESPN’s headquarters would have simultaneously combusted.

I’m not ripping on Kemp, because personally I don’t see anything wrong with his joyous post-homer celebration. But given the way some pick at and criticize every move Harper makes (like, for example, him intentionally discarding his helmet on his trot to second base last night), as the Dodgers celebrated around their hero at home plate last night, I was just left wondering how Kemp’s home run reactions would’ve played if it was Harper doing the bat-tossing and dancing around third base.

There was so much to love about last night’s game between the Nationals and Dodgers. The result obviously didn’t please Nats fans, but plenty within the thrilling 10-inning contest should have.

Harper performed exceptionally well in his major league debut, crushing a double off the center field wall, showing off his rocket-like - yet remarkably precise - arm with a throw to the plate, and driving in what looked like the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth. He hit for power, he delivered better situational hitting than the Nats have had nearly the entire 20 games prior to his arrival and he gave the offense some much-needed life.

His fellow No. 1 overall pick - Stephen Strasburg - was exceptional again, going seven innings with nine strikeouts and allowing just one run. His fastball had life, his curveball was nasty and he had such a good feel for those two pitches, he only tossed three changeups all game long. Yet again, Strasburg got stuck with a no-decision, and yet again, he deserved a better fate.

Adam LaRoche continues to rake, and truly is carrying this offense right now. LaRoche is up to 17 RBIs in 21 games played, while no other Nationals hitter has reached double digits in the RBI category yet.

There was plenty to be frustrated about, as well, including the return of “Bad Henry” (Henry Rodriguez’ blown save and three wild pitches in just 2/3 of an inning are cause for concern), Wilson Ramos’ defensive issues, Davey Johnson’s decision to leave in lefty Tom Gorzelanny to face Kemp leading off the 10th and Danny Espinosa’s rising strikeout numbers.

But overall, last night’s game, with all the hype around it considering Harper’s presence, had all the excitement, drama and intrigue that we could have hoped for in April. It was two teams battling it out to see who could reach the 15-win mark first, but it sure felt like a lot more was on the line than just that.

We can only hope the series finale this afternoon is anywhere close to as entertaining - and that it has a different outcome for the guys in the visiting dugout.

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