Quick Links

Instant analysis: Cardinals 10, Nats 9

Instant analysis: Cardinals 10, Nats 9

Game in a nutshell: What should have been a fantastic pitchers' duel between two of the NL's best (Jordan Zimmermann and Kyle Lohse) instead turned into a wild slugfest filled with twists and turns. The Nationals stormed out to a 6-2 lead after two innings, but then Zimmermann gave all the runs back and more, putting the Cardinals up 8-6 after four. A three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth put the Nationals back on top, 9-8. But then Sean Burnett coughed up the lead in the eighth and left this a tie game. Drew Storen recorded a huge out to end that inning and was given a chance to return for the ninth. But a leadoff single to Allen Craig and then the inability to prevent Craig from stealing second cost the Nationals. David Freese's RBI single scored Craig, and when the Nats went down in the bottom of the ninth, they were handed a frustrating, 10-9 loss. On the bright side, the Braves lost again to the Phillies, so the lead in the NL East remains 6 12 games, with the magic number down to 24.

Hitting highlight: They stormed out the gates with six early runs, then were silenced and saw their lead disappear. But a sixth-inning rally got the Nationals back on top, with contributions from several players. Danny Espinosa got things started with his 15th homer of the season. Jayson Werth then kept things going with a two-out double to right. That forced Cardinals manager Mike Matheny into summoning lefty Mark Rzepczynski to face Bryce Harper. The rookie did his job, drawing a walk, and that forced Matheny to turn to Fernando Salas to face Ryan Zimmerman. Zim responded with a base hit to left, bringing home the tying run. Then he appeared to purposely get caught in a rundown, stalling things just long enough for Harper to come around and score the go-ahead run. A crazy finish to a big inning for the Nationals.

Pitching lowlight: What's going on with Zimmermann? It's a real question for the Nationals right now, because the right-hander hasn't looked right for a while now. He was ambushed for a career-high eight runs in only 3 23 innings today, serving up two towering homers and losing his location during a laborious fourth inning he couldn't even finish. If this was just one blip on the radar, it wouldn't be cause for concern. But this has become a disturbing trend. After posting a 2.28 ERA over his first 21 starts this season, Zimmermann's ERA over his last six outings is now 6.16. Is there a problem with his shoulder? His velocity has been strong throughout this stretch. Whatever the reason, the Nationals have to hope their presumed playoff ace can figure things out, stat.

Key stat: The Nationals are the only MLB team to post a winning record in each of the season's first five months: April (14-8), May (15-13), June (15-10), July (17-9), August (19-10).

Up next: The series concludes with Stephen Strasburg on the mound for one of his final starts of the season. Veteran Jake Westbrook gets the nod for the Cardinals in the 1:35 p.m. contest.

Quick Links

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

Quick Links

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