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Depleted Nats go for sweep in Cincinnati

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Depleted Nats go for sweep in Cincinnati

For a team enjoying more success right now than it has at any other point since arriving in town seven years ago, the Nationals are also dealing with as much crushing injury news as they've ever experienced. The latest shock, of course, was this morning's revelation that Wilson Ramos will miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Thus, the spotlight now shines brightly on Jesus Flores, the Nationals' one-time, long-term answer behind the plate who will again be asked to take on starting responsibilities. His backup, for now, will be 23-year-old Sandy Leon, promoted all the way from Class AA Harrisburg.

And yet through all of this, the Nationals continue to win. Today, they'll be seeking a series sweep at Great American Ball Park and a continued hold on first place in the NL East. They'll send Edwin Jackson to the mound, and hope their reconfigured lineup can provide the necessary run support...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Rain, 60 degrees, Wind 7 mph in from LF

NATIONALS (21-12)SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson

REDS (16-16)CF Drew Stubbs
LF Chris Heisey
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
C Ryan Hanigan
SS Wilson Valdez
RHP Bronson Arroyo

UMPIRESHP Marty Foster, 1B Tim Timmons, 2B Jeff Kellogg (cc), 3B Eric Cooper

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Even after two-plus years, Hunter Strickland couldn't forget last meeting with Bryce Harper

Even after two-plus years, Hunter Strickland couldn't forget last meeting with Bryce Harper

965 days. That's the amount of time that separated the second time Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland faced each other on an MLB diamond and the third one.

In that second matchup, which came back in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, Harper launched a game-tying home run in the seventh inning off of Strickland. Harper also hit a blast off Strickland in Game 1 of the same series.

Well, apparently, the Giants reliever still hasn't gotten over his last time he saw the Nationals star, because on Monday, the right-hander plunked the MVP candidate with a fastball the first chance he had since their postseason encounters almost three years ago.

Ironically enough, after San Francisco beat Washington in the NLDS, Strickland told the SF Chronicle how he would have to "have a short memory" on the mound for the rest of the playoffs and keep his composure after the home runs. Judging by this video, however, it's clear that Strickland's had some issues moving on:

RELATED: MORE ON THE HARPER VS. STRICKLAND BRAWL

When you look back at that Game 4 meeting, you'll see Harper pause at home plate and watch his moonshot after sending it into the McCovey Cove, then glare at Strickland a few times as he rounds the bases. Some will call what No. 34 did a violation of baseball's unwritten rules, but it was a huge moment on a huge stage, which contributed to Harper's emotional reaction.

The fact of the matter is that plenty of pitchers have moved on from much more egregious things in much shorter time frames, but for whatever reason, Strickland just wasn't able to.

Afterward, Harper explained why he thinks the hit by pitch should've never happened.

But Ryan Zimmerman had the best quote of all when talking about the sequence:

The veteran is right on with that statement. Harper was better than Strickland back in 2014, so Strickland felt the need to tag Harper first before Harper had a chance to tag him again on Monday. Essentially, the pitcher followed the, "If you can't beat him, bean him" strategy.

965 days is a long time to get over a grudge. For Hunter Strickland, though, 965 days still wasn't enough.

MORE: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU CAN EAT IN 2017

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Bryce Harper charges mound, throws punches after Hunter Strickland hits him with pitch

Bryce Harper charges mound, throws punches after Hunter Strickland hits him with pitch

In their two previous meetings, Bryce Harper took Hunter Strickland deep. Very deep, in fact.

So in their third encounter, Strickland made sure that Harper wouldn't have the chance to do it again. 

RELATED: HERE'S THE HISTORY BETWEEN BRYCE HARPER AND HUNTER STRICKLAND

In the top of the eighth inning of Monday's Nationals-Giants game, the San Francisco reliever went after Washington's best player on the first pitch and hit him in the thigh with a 98 MPH fastball.

Harper — without hesitation — responded by charging the mound and throwing his helmet at Strickland, and the two then squared off and exchanged punches.

Here is the wild video of the whole sequence:

Harper and Strickland were, of course, ejected after initiating one of the best MLB fights in recent memory. This was the pair's first time facing each other since Harper's two home runs in the 2014 NLDS, meaning Strickland's had a long time to get over No. 34's blasts but simply couldn't do it.

MORE: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU CAN FIND (AND TASTE) IN 2017