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 Authentic Frank Ragnow Jersey , 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, 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.
HOUSTON — On Sunday, it was shortstop Carlos Correa who played a pivotal role in keeping Houston’s winning streak alive Authentic Jaire Alexander Jersey , belting a game-tying home run in the eighth inning as the Astros subsequently rolled to an 11th consecutive victory by rallying past the Kansas City Royals.
Houston (48-25) relied on a number of contributors to complete a 10-0 road trip through Texas, Oakland and Kansas City, with Correa following Evan Gattis, Max Stassi, Brian McCann and an assortment of others in striking the decisive blow to keep the line moving.
The Astros have benefited from a resurgent offense and exceptional work from their bullpen to set a pace as the hottest team in the majors, with their stellar road trip underscoring their might.
“This was incredible just by the way we played and the way we completed games,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Obviously, winning every game is incredible. We did it in a lot of different ways and so we want to keep the same intent and the same mentality that we’ve been playing with. It’s been pretty remarkable.
“It’s hard to put into words. It’s been somebody different every night. We’ve had good pitching; we’ve had good defense. We’ve rallied late, we’ve blown guys out early, so we’re in a good place right now and we’ve got to continue to do that going home.
“It was a long trip. We played in some hot weather. It’s a pretty resilient group to keep playing well and coming up with enough runs to win.”
Now the Astros return to Minute Maid Park to start a nine-game homestand on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. After improving to 29-11 on the road, the Astros are aiming to elevate their play at home, where they’ve been only slightly better than pedestrian (19-14).
“Hopefully, we can go home and keep grinding and keep playing the way we’ve been playing,” Correa said.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.40 ERA) gets the starting nod for the Astros. Cole will face the Rays for the first time in his career. He allowed a season-high four runs in his previous start, working six innings and getting six strikeouts in a 13-5 win at Oakland on June 13.
Cole is 4-0 with a 3.89 ERA in his previous six starts, surrendering eight home runs during that stretch.
Right-hander Ryan Stanek (1-1, 2.55) will start the series opener for the Rays. It will mark the sixth start and 16th appearance of the season for Stanek, who has yet to face the Astros.
After working out of the bullpen three times in his first four appearances this month, Stanek logged consecutive abbreviated starts against the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees on June 12 and 16, respectively.
Stanek’s outing against the Astros will mark the third consecutive bullpen day for the Rays (33-38), who claimed the finale of a four-game set in New York on Sunday behind 4 2/3 innings from right-hander Wilmer Font and four additional relievers.
The Rays welcomed back shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the 10-day disabled list, with Hechavarria finishing 3-for-4 with a run scored against the Yankees.
Hechavarria, who missed nearly a month with a right hamstring strain, is expected to play behind rookie Willy Adames and could be showcased as a trade chip in advance of the nonwaiver trade deadline.
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