Bryce Harper is starting to look like the Bryce Harper we saw in May and June.
The 19-year-old is turning on pitches inside, staying short and quick to the ball and squaring it up on the barrel.
Harper crushed a two-run homer into the Nationals’ bullpen in right in the first inning tonight, giving the Nats a 2-0 lead and giving the rookie outfielder his third homer in the last two days.
Harper nearly had his second straight two-homer game when he sent a ball to the wall in center in his next at-bat. The deep fly was about three feet short of leaving the park, and was instead pulled in by Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay.
The Nats Park crowd gave Harper a standing ovation anyway.
Over the last couple months, we’ve seen a lot of long swings from Harper and impatience at the plate. He’s chased off-speed pitches off the plate away and hasn’t forced pitchers to challenge him with fastballs.
We haven’t seen that the last couple days.
While Harper has been providing the pop, Edwin Jackson has been providing the sizzle.
Jackson has seven strikeouts through just three innings against his former team. He struck out the side in the first, then added two more in both the second and third frames.
Four of Jackson’s strikeouts have come on a hard, biting slider, two have been on fastballs and one was on a changeup.
The righty has already thrown 53 pitches, but that’s nothing for him. Remember, Jackson threw 147 pitches in his no-hitter. He can go as long as Davey Johnson wants him to.
The Nats lead 3-0 after three.
Update: The Nationals have scored in every inning that Jayson Werth has reached base, and now have a 6-0 lead after six innings.
Werth smacked a solo homer off the back of the visitors’ bullpen in left leading off the fifth inning, his first home run since suffering a broken wrist on May 6. He then reached again in the sixth, his run-scoring fielder’s choice making it a 5-0 lead.
Harper followed with an RBI single to center, giving him six RBIs in the last two nights.
Update II: Jackson’s night is done after eight fantastic innings. He threw 123 pitches, allowed just one unearned run on four hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
It’s the second time this season (and second time in his last three starts) that Jackson has posted a double-digit strikeout total and the seventh time he’s done so in his career.
Over his last three starts, Jackson has worked 21 innings and allowed just five earned runs (2.14 ERA). He’s allowed 13 hits and five walks and has a whopping 29 strikeouts.
The Nationals’ lead is 8-1 as we go to the ninth.
Update III: That’s the ballgame. The Nationals win 8-1 thanks to Jackson’s stellar start and an offensive explosion.
They’re now up 5 1/2 games over the Braves in the NL East.