Quick Links

Talking about Tuesday's Nats win

791438.png

Talking about Tuesday's Nats win

Remember how daunting this 33-game stretch against only NL East and AL East teams was supposed to be for the Nationals? Well, with Tuesday night's 4-2 victory in Toronto, they're now two-thirds of the way through this gantlet and they've gone 14-8.

Not bad. Not bad at all. But wait, there's more...

With this latest win, the Nationals are now 37-23, 14 games over .500. That puts them on pace for 100 wins by season's end.

And thanks to the Braves' loss to the Yankees, the Nationals now hold a 4-game lead in the NL East. The last time they held a lead that large? July 6, 2005.

And thanks to the Phillies' loss to the Twins, the Nationals now hold a 9 12-game lead over the five-time division champs. Yes, 9 12 games.

Wednesday afternoon, they'll have a chance to complete a sweep of the Blue Jays, this coming on the heels of a sweep of the Red Sox. In their 7-plus year history, the Nationals have never gone 6-0 on a road trip. Not once. They'll look to pull that off at Rogers Centre, with none other than Stephen Strasburg on the mound.

Some other thoughts from Tuesday night's game...

-- Bryce Harper is starting to heat up at the plate. Wait, you're saying he hasn't been hot this whole time? Actually, no, he wasn't. Through his first 20 big-league games, Harper hit .230 with two homers, five RBI, a .318 on-base percentage and a .737 OPS. He's now played 20 more big-league games, during which time he's hit .361 with five homers, 13 RBI, a .439 on-base percentage and a 1.147 OPS.

-- Chien-Ming Wang really had to battle to complete five innings, preserve his team's lead and earn his first win in three starts. The way the fifth inning was unfolding -- especially after Jose Bautista tattooed a high sinker for a two-run homer -- it seemed obvious Wang had nothing left in the tank. It was telling that Davey Johnson let his starter stay in the game to try to complete the inning and qualify for the victory, but you have to wonder how many more opportunities the manager will give Wang. Yes, it's only three starts. But right now, Wang clearly is the weak link in an otherwise fabulous rotation. And Ross Detwiler, though he struggled in his final starts before getting bumped to the bullpen, appears to give the Nationals a better chance to win right now. Wang's turn next comes up Tuesday against the Rays. Stay tuned.

-- For a guy known more for his defensive abilities than his offensive skills, Jhonatan Solano sure seems to have some pop in his bat. Solano crushed a hanging slider from Henderson Alvarez in the top of the seventh for his first career home run. That blast (along with a fifth-inning single) makes Solano 4-for-10 as a big-league hitter. Can that last? Probably not. But it's got to at least be comforting to Johnson to know his rookie backup catcher can hold his own at the plate, perhaps earning a chance to start behind the plate more than once every five days.

-- With an 0-for-4, two-strikeout night, Ryan Zimmerman is now hitting .239 for the season. Even more alarming, his 6-4-3 groundout in the fifth was his ninth double play this season. The only NL players who have grounded into more double plays: Alfonso Soriano and Hanley Ramirez, who each have 10 but also have each played in more games than Zimmerman (who spent two weeks on the DL).

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