Harper added two more homers to his deep collection off Teheran, including a grand slam that helped the Nationals overcome Freeman’s latest blast off them and propel them to a 14-4 victory tonight at SunTrust Park.
Joe Ross bounced back from a shaky first inning in his first major league start of the season to pitch seven strong innings and earn the win. Ryan Zimmerman’s grand slam in the top of the eighth, meanwhile, turned this game into a rout and gave the Nationals’ beleaguered bullpen more than enough breathing room to finish this one off.
The Nationals did lose Jayson Werth to injury when the veteran left fielder grimaced after a checked swing in the top of the third and was forced to depart. The club doesn’t provide in-game injury updates, so it’s not yet clear what exactly Werth hurt on the swing.
The Nationals led most of the night, thanks to Harper’s continued dominance any time he steps into the box to face Teheran. He entered the game with five homers in 31 career at-bats against the Braves ace. Two innings and two at-bats later, he had raised that total to seven homers.
Harper pounced on Teheran’s first pitch in his first at-bat, sending the ball soaring over the extended brick wall in right-center field at the Braves’ new ballpark. That was merely the precursor to his bigger blast in the top of the second.
With the bases loaded and two out, Harper crushed Teheran’s offering to straightaway center field, leaving the crowd in stunned silence as he circled the bases following the third grand slam of his career.
Harper’s updated career numbers vs. Teheran: 15-for-33 with three doubles, seven homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.717 OPS.
And if that wasn’t enough, Harper also reached base five times tonight, going 4-for-4 and adding a single, a double and an intentional walk. He has reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances, one shy of his career high.
Zimmerman added his own big blast during a five-run eighth, taking former teammate Ian Krol deep to right-center for the fourth homer of his season, the sixth grand slam of his career. This represented the first time the Nationals hit two grand slams in one game since Josh Willingham did it all by himself on July 27, 2009 at Milwaukee.
By the end of the night, the Nats had piled up 20 hits.
Ross, who spent the last 2 1/2 weeks at Triple-A Syracuse while the Nationals went with a four-man rotation, excelled in his delayed season debut. The right-hander needed some time to find his footing, allowing two runs in the bottom of the first, but he surrendered just one run over his last six innings to finish strong.
The lone blemish against Ross after the first inning: Freeman’s solo homer in the third. That blast to center left the Atlanta slugger a perfect 3-for-3 with three walks so far in 2017 against the Nationals, continuing his longstanding dominance of this pitching staff.
Overall, Freeman reached base in 12 consecutive plate appearances going back to last weekend against the Padres, before Ross finally got him to ground out in the bottom of the sixth.