As the Washington Nationals embarked on their longest road trip of the season, critics would be hard-pressed to claim the team was resting on their laurels as the double-digit leaders in the National League East division.

Yet, the team made national news on Memorial Day in San Francisco as Bryce Harper was involved in a much publicized bench-clearing brawl after being plunked with a 98 miles-per-hour fastball by Giants reliever Hunter Strickland in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the three-game set. Initially, Harper was given a four-game suspension for his actions. But, after appealing the penalty, he agreed to drop his request as MLB dropped the suspension to just three games.

Washington Nationals’ Daniel Murphy (20) tries to restrain teammate Bryce Harper (34) after Harper charged San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Strickland after being hit with a pitch in the eighth inning of a baseball game Monday, May 29, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The two players have a history, stemming from two home runs Harper hit off Strickland in the 2014 playoffs.  After more than 1,000 days, it was the first time Strickland had to face Harper on the mound.  Luckily for the Nats, nobody – including Harper – was injured in the melee.  The Nationals won the game, 3-0 and would go on to sweep the series as well.

Gio Gonzalez pitched into the seventh inning to win for the first time in more than a month in the 6-3 win in Game 2. And, in another stellar performance, Max Scherzer in Game 3 delivered his first complete game of the season, striking out 11 batters in a five-hitter to complete a three-game sweep.  Scherzer (6-3) retired 10 straight to begin the game. He allowed more than one runner in an inning only once and didn’t walk a batter for the second time this season on the way to his seventh career complete game.

Ryan Zimmerman continued to bring the power with his team-leading 15th homer of the season in the finale. The 15 homers are as many as he hit in all of 2016.

After making the trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to start their weekend set in Oakland, the Nationals dominated the A’s in a 13-3 route on Friday, June 2. The win marked the first time in Nationals franchise history that every one of the nine players in the starting lineup notched a run and an RBI. Daniel Murphy and Harper-replacement Brian Goodwin, and  each had four hits, including a home run as Murphy was 4 for 5 with two RBI including his 10th home run.

 

Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO