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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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Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

ATLANTA (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out a season-high 11 and kept up his recent domination of the Atlanta Braves, leading Washington to a 3-2 win Sunday that stopped the Nationals' four-game losing streak.

Strasburg (5-1) allowed five hits in 7 2/3 innings, beating Atlanta for the second time this season and improving to 7-1 in his last nine starts against the Braves. He is 10-8 overall against Atlanta.

He reached double digits in strikeouts for the second time this season after fanning 10 Braves on April 20.

Strasburg faded in the eighth, when Dansby Swanson hit a two-run double. Koda Glover struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning and finished the six-hitter for his third save.

Daniel Murphy hit a second-inning homer off Jaime Garcia (1-3) and the Nationals added two unearned runs in the third.

Matt Adams was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and hit into a ninth-inning double play in his debut for Atlanta, a day after he was acquired from St. Louis. Matt Kemp led off the ninth, and Adams hit a line drive that was caught by Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped on first base.

Garcia allowed three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in eight innings with no walks.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the third following fielding errors by Markakis in right and Garcia. Bryce Harper had a run-scoring single.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon and C Matt Wieters were given days off from the starting lineup. Rendon entered at third base in the eighth.

Braves: RHP Kris Medlen allowed one hits in six scoreless innings Saturday in his first start for Class A Florida. He missed most of 2016 with shoulder problems after his second Tommy John surgery. "That would be a real nice piece to have," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. Medlen pitched for Kansas City in 2015-16 and his last season with Atlanta was in 2013, when he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Following an off day, RHP Jacob Turner (2-2) is expected to start when the Nationals will open a series against Seattle on Tuesday.

Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (2-4) will take a 0-3 career record in three starts against Pittsburgh into Monday night's series opener against the Pirates.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

A week ago, the Nationals were looking unstoppable. Bryce Harper was hitting walkoff dingers left and right, there were multiple winning streaks, and the bullpen was only sorta bad. 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

A week's worth of games later - against the Braves, Pirates and Phillies, no less - and the Nats don't look nearly as stainless. Harper's hitting under .200 since his Mother's Day walkoff, the team lost 5 of 6, and the bullpen turned back into a pumpkin. Because of that, there's a new team at the top of the Power Rankings this week. Who is it? To the rankings! 

30. MIAMI MARLINS

2017 Record: 15-28
Previous Ranking: 24
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Dee Gordon (.318/.400/.364 last week)

Stanton hasn't homered in over two weeks, a stretch of 12 games. After going 2-8 over the last 10, including that weird Dodgers game, the Marlins have seen better weeks.  

29. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 16-30
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance: Brad Hand (.300/.500/.600 last week)

Wil Myers' underwhelming season continues. The outfielder is hitting .150 over the last week, and only .219 over the last month. The Padres best position player is only worth .6 bWAR, and that's 5th-best on the team.

28. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 15-26
Previous Ranking: 23
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Daniel Nava (.429/.429/.571 last week)

They ran into Texas at exactly the wrong time. Getting starts that are consistently like Aaron Nola's last one will be huge for his development this season. 

27. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2017 Record: 18-25
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Lorenzo Cain (.087/.125/.087 last week)

They're starting to play better, but upcomming series with the Yankees and Indians aren't making life any easier for KC. Jason Vargas (?!) has been their most valuable player this year (2.0 bWAR). 

26. ATLANTA BRAVES

2017 Record: 18-23
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Notable Performance: Matt Kemp (.375/.423/.708 last week)

Losing Freeman for three months because of some dumb unspoken beef is just a testament to how stupid unwritten baseball rules are. The silver lining to this year, though, is that the Braves are going to fleece some team for Matt Kemp in July. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE