Strickland's action provides extra motivation for Nats now

The one postgame quote that resonates after the Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland brawl in Monday's 3-0 Nationals win over the Giants is this one:

"It's so in the past that it's not even relevant anymore," Harper told reporters after the game. "They won the World Series that year. I don't even think (Strickland) should be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don't know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens."

What the incident demonstrates, and the way each team reacted, is that Strickland is still the same person he was three seasons ago when Harper launched two homers in the National League Division Series off the right-hander.

bryce-harper-yell-nlds.jpgBut Harper isn't.

The 24-year-old has matured in the past three seasons. The 28-year-old Strickland has not, and is still the same player he was in 2014.

After Strickland allowed a homer to Harper in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS, Strickland vowed to not shy away from throwing another fastball to Harper later in the series.

Strickland did and Harper crushed it again.

Strickland has allowed 14 homers to 13 players in his career. The only player with more than one homer off him his Harper.

Strickland has faced 542 plate appearances in his four-year career and he has hit a grand total of five batters. Before Monday's matchup, Strickland had not hit one batter in 20 games this season. The fifth batter hit was Harper yesterday.

The Nationals have another strong team in 2017. The Giants have struggled out of the gate, now 10 1/2 games behind the Nationals in the National League.

The Nationals have opened up an 8 1/2-game lead on the Mets and the Braves in the East division. Alongside the Dodgers, they trail the Rockies by just a half-game in the overall league standings. The Nats already are 3-1 against Colorado this season.

So seeing that everyone is OK health-wise after the brawl, the Nats might send a "thank you" note to Strickland in October for electrifying a race that hasn't been one for the Nats. The hit-by-pitch of their MVP candidate gives them another big picture reason to continue to drive with a vengeance to set their goal for home-field advantage in the NL - sending a message to the Giants and the league that the club will not let another team try to intimidate them for an incident that occurred three seasons ago.

It is not like the Nats needed extra motivation, but there is nothing like a bench-clearing brawl to bring a clubhouse even closer together - all 25 players willing to fight for one cause.

Because all Strickland had to do to show he could beat Harper was strike him out. Instead, he hit him with a pitch. Now he has made baseball more difficult for the Giants and added another focus point to the Nationals' drive for a pennant.

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