By Jenny Masters
Bryce Harper’s first-inning homer started the Phillies to a 7-4 win over the Nats, stretching their winning streak to 4.
Brad Miller also went deep and Ronald Torreyes added a bases-loaded triple for Philadelphia, which improved to 7-1 at Nationals Park this season. The Phillies moved within three games of Cincinnati for the NL’s second wild card berth and within 3 1/2 of the Braves in NL East.
Carter Kieboom homered for Washington, which has dropped three in a row, five of its last six and 19 of 25.
Harper, who signed a $330 million, 13-year contract with the Phils in 2019 after playing his first seven seasons with the Nationals, was booed — as he usually is — in Washington. The sparse crowd was even more frustrated when he golfed Josiah Gray’s curveball into the Nationals’ bullpen for his 26th homer, giving the Phillies a lead they never relinquished.
It was Harper’s 10th home run in August.
“What he’s done for this club has been absolutely incredible,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He has that ability all the time. That’s how good of a player he is. He’s one of those guys you don’t necessarily go and get a soda or a hot dog when he comes up to hit. You kind of stay in your chair and wait to see the at bat.”
Harper, who went 2 for 5, is hitting .404 (23 for 57) with seven homers and 12 RBI in 16 games against Washington this season. His homer was the 100th of his career at Nationals Park, the second most in the ballpark’s history behind former teammate Ryan Zimmerman (115).
“I like hitting here — I always have,” Harper said. “I see the ball really well here. I love the ballpark. I feel really good in this ballpark and in the batter’s box as well. Every time I get in there, I feel like I’m the best player in the world.”
Harper’s single started a third-inning rally against Gray (0-2) that Torreyes capped with a fly to left that Yadiel Hernandez struggled to judge and caromed off the base of the wall, allowing three runs to score
Gray allowed six runs in four innings, the shortest of his six starts since joining Washington at the trade deadline as part of the prospect haul the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up for All-Stars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
“They came out swinging and they came out attacking early, and then coupled with my command not being there and not being great tonight, that was the result tonight,” Gray said. “Hat’s off to them. It was just an off night.”
Zack Wheeler (11-9) pitched six innings for Philadelphia, yielding four runs while striking out four. He slogged through the first three innings, surrendering two runs in the second and Kieboom’s third-inning homer in that stretch. But he set down 10 of the last 11 men he faced.
José Alvarado escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the ninth for his fifth save.
Miller’s solo shot off reliever Patrick Murphy in the fifth was his 14th homer of the season. Miller had three hits and two walks, reaching safely in each of his plate appearances.