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WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper made some strides at the plate Thursday night just as the Washington Nationals prepare to welcome the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies to town for a weekend series.
Moved back to the leadoff spot by manager Dave Martinez [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-thomas-davis-jersey]Thomas Davis Jersey[/url] , Harper walked twice and had a sacrifice fly and a double in four plate appearances during a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Harper doubled in the eighth inning of a tie game and came in on Juan Soto’s two-run double and the Nationals took two of three from the Orioles.
“I was able to see a lot of pitches tonight,” Harper told the Washington Times after the Nationals (40-33) improved to 9-1 with him in the leadoff spot.
Harper began the night hitting .133 (8-for-60) in June, with five walks and 23 strikeouts.
“My swing has felt great,” Harper told mlb.com. “I’ve felt great the past month and a half or so, just chasing pitches. Tonight, I tried to do the best I could to get a ball over the middle (of the plate), and I was able to do that.”
The 19-year-old Soto just continues to hit. Thursday night he went 1-for-3 with a walk in the cleanup spot and enters the weekend hitting .326 with six homers and 16 RBIs over 92 major-league at-bats.
“I think we’re all amazed every single day,” Washington starter Max Scherzer told mlb.com. “He’s a great young player. He’s just enjoying himself. He’s the bat we kind of need in our lineup right now, that’s hot. And teams are going to have to figure out how to get him out, because it’s tough right now.”
Friday night that task falls to Philadelphia right-hander Zach Eflin (4-2, 3.43 ERA). He has won three straight starts, allowing four runs over 18 2/3 innings while striking out 17 batters and walking just three after pitching five effective innings Saturday in Milwaukee.
Elfin will be making his first career start against Washington, which counters with right-hander Tanner Roark (3-7, 3.87).
Roark gave up four runs on eight hits over four innings of in an 8-6 loss at Toronto on Sunday.
On May 5 he lost to the Phillies in Washington when he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings. For his career, he is 6-7 with a 3.98 ERA in 18 games (16 starts) versus the Phillies.
The Phillies (39-33) trail the second-place Nationals by one-half game in the NL East and trail the Braves by 3 1/3 games. Philadelphia has won seven of its last 10 games and has taken three straight series — against Colorado, at Milwaukee and against St. Louis — as it begins a 10-game stretch against the Nationals and Yankees.
“I think coming off this series [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-trai-turner-jersey]Trai Turner Jersey[/url] , we anticipate a highly-competitive series against a good ballclub on the road, and it seems like we’re ready for that challenge,” Philadelphia right-hander Jake Arrieta told mlb.com.
Off on Thursday, the Phillies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 on Wednesday.
Odubel Herrera hit what proved to be the game-winning home run in the seventh inning to go along with a single and a double.
“It was one of those ‘Wow’ moments,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told the Courier Post. “He’s so hot, but he’s such an incredible athlete. It’s really elite barrel accuracy. I don’t know how to describe it. He just knows how to find the barrel, find the sweet spot.”
Herrera is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with two doubles, five home runs, eight RBIs in the past seven games. He is 13-for-31 (.419) versus Roark.
Alex Smith has been part of some embarrassing playoff defeats in Kansas City, including the Chiefs’ huge blown lead in Indianapolis several years ago and the nip-and-tuck loss to Pittsburgh last season.
None of them compares to Saturday night.
After leading the Chiefs to a 21-3 halftime lead over Tennessee, the veteran quarterback watched in horror as everything unraveled. Marcus Mariota led the Titans on three touchdown drives, Smith could not even manage to get his team a field goal, and the Chiefs were stunned 22-21 to end their season.
Perhaps even end Smith’s career with the Chiefs.
So when he was asked in a somber postgame news conference whether this was the most disheartening loss of his career, Smith was unequivocal: ”Yeah,” he said. ”Without a doubt.”
”You know, it felt like the opportunity we had in front of us [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-sam-mills-jersey]Sam Mills Jersey[/url] , the talent we had – the group – when we play the way we’re capable of playing, yeah, the sky’s the limit,” Smith said. ”Tonight isn’t a good example of that. Not consistent enough. Didn’t come out and make the plays we needed.”
That has become a familiar refrain for the Chiefs in the playoffs.
Especially the games at Arrowhead Stadium.
Despite having one of the proudest traditions in the NFL, and their stadium having a certain mystique about it, the Chiefs are miserable when the postseason rolls around.
They haven’t won a home playoff game since January 1994, when Joe Montana was under center, and only two in their entire history.
If not for a road win over the Houston Texans a couple of years ago, the Chiefs would still be searching for their first postseason victory of any kind since that home win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
”Whenever you lose it always hurts, regardless of if it’s one point or 20 points. But to go down like this – it really hurts,” said Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, one of the longest-tenured players in the history of the franchise.
”I’ve been playing this game for a long time and 21-3 at halftime, you win. And we didn’t. You’re good enough, you come out with that win.”
There were numerous plays that made this defeat particularly gut-wrenching.
In the first half, Johnson blitzed in a flash and sacked Mariota, who clearly lost the ball before he hit the ground. But the officials ruled the play was over [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-kawann-short-jersey]Kawann Short Jersey[/url] , it could not be reviewed and the Titans had time for a field goal that wound up being crucial in a game where every point mattered.
”I thought that’s why we had replay and some of those things,” Smith said afterward.
In the second half, the Chiefs took umbrage with another whistle when the Titans scored the go-ahead TD on a pass to Eric Decker. The Titans went for a 2-point conversion.
Mariota was getting sacked when the ball popped out again. Frank Zombo picked it up and began running the other way for what would have been two points, giving the Chiefs the lead back with just over six minutes left in the game.
The whistle again had been blown, and referee Jeff Triplette told a pool reporter Mariota’s forward progress had been stopped, allowing the Titans to retain the slimmest of leads.
”I don’t really have anything good to say,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, ”so I’m just going to kind of stay away from any comments on those guys. I don’t want to get fined or whatever. It’s not worth it.”
The final frustration came as the Titans were trying to run out the clock. Derrick Henry coughed up the ball and this time no whistle was blown, so Johnson returned the fumble for a touchdown. The crowd went wild as fireworks popped over Arrowhead Stadium – until replays showed that Henry was down.
The officials gave the ball back to the Titans and this time they ran out the clock.
Along the way, the Chiefs lost All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce to a concussion and defensive tackle Chris Jones to an ankle injury, depriving them of emotional leaders on both sides of the ball.
The result was yet another heartbreak for a franchise that has known its share of them.
”Honestly we just didn’t come out ready to play in the second half, that’s what I’d say,” Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt said. ”Nobody likes losing and this one’s for real. We’re going home.”
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