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Instant analysis: Dodgers 4, Nats 3 (10)

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Instant analysis: Dodgers 4, Nats 3 (10)

Game in a nutshell: A game with all sorts of delicious storylines -- including Bryce Harper's debut and Stephen Strasburg's first career start in Southern California -- more than lived up to its billing but ended in crushing fashion. Strasburg was brilliant over seven innings, striking out nine. And Harper dazzled the sellout crowd both with his bat (a double off the base of the center-field fence) and his arm (a missile to the plate that would have nailed Jerry Hairston had catcher Wilson Ramos not dropped the ball). Then with the game on the line in the ninth inning, Harper delivered again: His sacrifice fly to left brought home Rick Ankiel and gave the kid his first career RBI and what looked like the game-winning RBI. That was, until Henry Rodriguez entered in the bottom of the ninth and blew the save amid a flurry of base hits and wild pitches and sent the game into extras. Then Matt Kemp crushed a pitch from Tom Gorzelanny into the center-field bleachers to give the Dodgers a 4-3 victory.
Hitting highlight: Where would the Nationals be without Adam LaRoche right now? Seriously, how clutch has the veteran first baseman been for this offensively challenged team? LaRoche did it again tonight leading off the seventh inning in a scoreless game, belting a solo shot down the right-field line for his team-leading, fourth homer of the season. He's also got a team-high 17 RBI. And his single off left-hander Scott Elbert ignited the game-winning rally in the ninth.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg has put together some dominant starts in his young career, but this one might have rivaled any of the previous ones. In control from the moment he toed the rubber, the right-hander blew away a good Dodgers team and struck out MVP candidate Matt Kemp twice on fastballs. Unfortunately, Strasburg wound up with no-decision after allowing a dubious run in the seventh. Still, this was yet another big-time performance from Strasburg on the big stage.

Key stat: Of the first 465 batters he faced in the big leagues, Strasburg hit only one. Then he plunked two in a span of 17 batters tonight.
Up next: Gio Gonzalez takes the mound Sunday at 4:10 p.m. EDT for the finale of this series and this West Coast trip. Lefty Chris Capuano starts for the Dodgers, a potentially tough matchup for Harper.

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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.

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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.

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