Harper finally connects off Harvey (Nats win 4-3 in 11)

NEW YORK - Bryce Harper entered tonight’s game with one hit in 26 career at-bats against Matt Harvey. No opposing pitcher has confounded the Nationals slugger like the Mets right-hander.

Is there a reasonable explanation for Harvey’s one-sided domination of one of the best hitters in baseball?

harper-henley-low-five-gray-sidebar.jpg“I don’t know,” manager Dusty Baker said this afternoon. “I don’t think he knows. Matt knows it. Bryce knows it. But one thing: The law of averages is on Bryce’s side. I’m hoping the law of averages comes out to work on Bryce’s behalf tonight.”

The law of averages struck in the top of the first inning. And it struck hard.

Harper launched a two-run homer to center, improving to 2-for-27 in his career against Harvey and giving the Nationals a quick 2-0 lead in the opener of this big weekend series against their top division rivals.

It was Harper’s seventh homer in 16 games played this season, his third in three days. He now has 20 RBIs, not to mention a .411 batting average.

Harper’s homer came moments after Wilmer Difo took a 94 mph fastball from Harvey off his helmet, going down in a heap after the ball appeared to strike his right ear flap. After a quick examination by director of athletic training Paul Lessard, Difo trotted down to first base, and he has remained in the game since, showing no ill effects.

Handed the 2-0 lead when he took the mound, Tanner Roark immediately gave one of the runs back. Michael Conforto launched Roark’s very first pitch of the night over the left field fence, trimming New York’s deficit to 2-1.

Roark has been sharp since then, though. Through three innings, he has thrown only 38 pitches (22 strikes) and has let only one other ball leave the infield.

Update: The Mets came back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth, thanks in large part to some sloppy Nats defense. Daniel Murphy mishandled a soft liner that would’ve started an inning-ending double play. That left the door open for Curtis Granderson to single to right, scoring Jay Bruce. Harper did try to throw out Bruce at the plate, but he was plenty late, so Jose Lobaton ran up to catch the ball and throw back to second base to try to get Granderson. Except his throw sailed into center field for an error.

Fortunately for the Nats, Lobaton quickly atoned for his gaffe. He crushed a 1-2 pitch from Harvey to nearly the same spot Harper hit his homer in the first inning, giving the Nats the lead again. They’re up 3-2 in the fifth.

Update II: Granderson continues to terrorize the Nationals, even if he’s not terrorizing the rest of the league. He took Roark deep into the second deck in right field in the bottom of the sixth, his first homer of the season. This one has tied this game again, 3-3 heading to the seventh.

Update III: Who’s ready for extra innings? Despite opportunities to win this game for both sides, neither could produce the hit that would have driven in the winning run. And so they’re heading to the 10th at Citi Field.

Update IV: And now we’re heading to the 11th after both teams went down in order in the 10th. The Nats haven’t had a hit since Lobaton’s homer in the fifth. The Mets have hit the ball hard but haven’t been able to convert.

Update V: Nats win, 4-3 in 11. They managed to load the bases against Jeurys Familia. Then Trea Turner, in his first at-bat in 13 days, drew a four-pitch walk to force in the go-ahead run. Shawn Kelley pitched the bottom of the inning for his third save in four days and to finish off the Nats’ fifth consecutive victory.

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