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Did Harper interfere on play at plate?

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Did Harper interfere on play at plate?

There were very few plays of consequence during last night's 5-4 victory that didn't involve Bryce Harper in some fashion, right down to the 19-year-old ninth-inning double off the wall that set the stage for Ian Desmond's game-winning homer.

No less important, though, was Harper's aggressive baserunning play in the bottom of the fourth, when he scored from second on a Wilson Ramos grounder that ate up Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill.

Never letting up as he approached third, and watching coach Bo Porter give him the green light to make the turn, Harper hustled his way to a key run.

"I knew it was going to be close," he said. "On that kind of ball, you really got to bust you butt around the corner. I was reading Bo the whole time and I was going, so I was trying to make something happen at the plate and was going hard."

Oh, Harper most definitely went hard into the plate. After recovering to retrieve the ball, Hill fired home and had Harper beat by a couple of steps. But as Miguel Montero braced himself for impact, Harper slid into him with both arms raised, ultimately knocking the ball out of the catcher's mitt.

It instantly brought to mind the controversial play from Harper's debut Saturday night in Los Angeles, when he appeared to throw out Jerry Hairston from left field, only to watch as Hairston dislodged the ball from Ramos' mitt.

The Nationals were furious about that play, insisting Hairston went out of his way to swat at Ramos' glove (and later at the ball after it popped out).

This time, it was the Diamondbacks complaining about Harper making a somewhat similar move.

"I thought he went after my hands, my glove," Montero said. "If you watch the replay, clearly you see that. The umpire said he didn't see it, but whatever. That's a tough play. If he comes to me try to hit me and all that, it's part of the game. But if he did that on purpose, that's kind of a crappy play."

So, did Harper purposely try to swat at the ball? It's tough to say based on the replays. He clearly raised both arms, but it could be argued he was doing that simply to brace for impact. There was, however, some downward movement of his hands, intentional or unintentional.

Harper wasn't entirely sure what happened. In fact, he he didn't even realize umpire Bill Welke had called him safe, so he hopped back to his feet and returned to touch the plate just in case.

"I had no clue," the rookie outfielder said. "I was just in the moment. So I tried to go back and touch it just to make sure so we could get a run up on that board."

The run indeed counted, and Harper added yet another memorable moment to an ever-growing list only four games into his career.

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Washington Nationals celebrate NL East title

Washington Nationals celebrate NL East title

Two things had to happen for the Nationals to clinch the NL East title Saturday night. They had to beat the Pirates, and the Mets had to lose to the Phillies.

Both of those things happened, and the Nats wasted no time getting the celebration going. 

And they kept it going. 

Bryce Harper sported a Katie Ledecky swim cap to protect his flow from the flying liquid.

Then the team left the clubhouse, apparently to go roam Pittsburgh and find some Nats fans to celebrate with.

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Bryce Harper celebrates courtesy of Katie Ledecky in post-game celebration

Bryce Harper celebrates courtesy of Katie Ledecky in post-game celebration

Bryce Harper always talks about loving Washington, D.C. and after winning another NL East crown, he honored one of the local legends from the Rio games.

Katie Ledecky was one of the stars of the Olympics and the Bethesda resident appears to have given Harper a swimcap to celebrate clinching the NL East.

She reached out to Harper on twitter and appreciated the MVP sporting the swim cap.