Bryce Harper homers twice, powers Nationals past Braves

Bryce Harper homers twice, powers Nationals past Braves

April 20th, 2017 by Associated Press in Breaking News

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper gets high-fives at home hitting a grand slam off Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Jones during the second inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in Atlanta. Harper had a solo homer in the first inning. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

ATLANTA — The next time Julio Teheran faces the Nationals, the Braves' No. 1 starter might want to swallow his pride and just not challenge Bryce Harper. Because what the Washington slugger has done to him is downright Barry Bonds-ian.

Harper homered with the bases empty in the first inning and homered again with them full in the second inning, powering the Nationals to a 14-4 win against the Braves at SunTrust Park and overshadowing a record-setting performance by Freddie Freeman.

Ryan Zimmerman added an eighth-inning grand slam off Ian Krol for the Nationals, who are 31-9 against the Braves since the beginning of the 2015 season. The Braves have lost eight consecutive games that Teheran has started against Washington.

After sweeping a four-game series against the Padres to open SunTrust Park, the Braves have lost the first two games of a three-game series against the Nationals. They'll try to avert a sweep by the Nationals on Thursday night when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey faces Washington's Stephen Strasburg in the homestand finale.

Teheran (1-1) was charged with seven hits, seven runs and three walks in just four innings, exiting with a 3.52 ERA after entering with an 0.95 ERA through three starts.

Harper went 4-for-4 with two homers, a double, a walk and five RBIs. His two homers (and walk) against Teheran made Harper an astounding 15-for-33 (.455) against him with three doubles, seven homers, 17 RBIs and OPS over 1.700.

No other player has more than three homers or nine RBIs against Teheran.

Freeman had a first-inning walk and third-inning home run to set an Atlanta franchise record by reaching base in 12 consecutive plate appearances, a streak that was snapped when he grounded out in the sixth inning.

Freeman, who added an RBI single in the eighth inning and is hitting .440, broke the consecutive plate-appearance record held by Jeff Burroughs, who reached base in 11 consecutive PAs in April 1978.

But by the time he broke it the Braves trailed 6-2, with Harper's second-inning grand slam reducing to ashes the 2-1 lead that Teheran was staked to via first-inning RBI singles from Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips.

In his past 41 games against the Braves, Harper has hit .322 with 17 doubles, 13 home runs, 36 walks and 40 RBIs.

Teheran couldn't even walk Harper without a run scoring — he bounced a ball-four pitch five feet in front of the plate in the fourth inning with runners on the corners and two outs, allowing a run to score for a 7-3 lead. Teheran was hit in the right foot by a line-drive infield single in the fourth and left after throwing 93 pitches (55 strikes) in four innings.

After going 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his first seven starts against the Nationals including six Braves wins, Teheran is 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA in his past eight starts against them, all Braves losses. He's allowed 11 home runs in 38 2/3 innings over his past seven starts against the Nationals.

It was his worst start since Sept. 27 at home against Phillies, when he gave up 10 hits and six runs in four innings of a 7-6 win. Teheran entered with a 0.95 ERA in three starts and exited with a 3.52 ERA.

He also gave up 11 hits, six runs and two homers in six innings of a 10-9 loss at Arizona on Aug. 24. But since the loss to the Diamondbacks, Teheran was 5-1 with a 2.64 ERA in his past 10 starts before Wednesday, allowing two runs or fewer in eight starts and only two earned runs in 19 innings over his previous three starts this season.

Teheran gave up one homer his past six starts (37 innings) before giving up two to Harper in the first two innings Wednesday. Harper's first-inning homer came on a first-pitch fastball, 90 mph and right down the middle for 1-0 lead.

His second-inning grand slam was on an 80-mph Teheran slider at the bottom of strike zone but over the middle.


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