Following their 13-hit barrage Tuesday, the Nationals laced 11 more hits. They did not allow the opposing starting pitcher to reach the seventh inning for the seventh time in eight games. Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano each posted zeroes, the latter with an emphatic untucking of his shirt to punctuate his third save. Clinching the series victory over Chicago kept the Nationals steaming toward a division showdown with first-place Atlanta, which will enter Nationals Park on Friday at 8-1.
“Hitting the barrel is contagious,” Desmond said. “And a lot of guys are finding the barrel right now.”
For the 24,586 who came to the stadium — many arriving before the umpires, whose misadventure in D.C. traffic (seriously) delayed the game for 15 minutes – the clearest memory came when Harper came to bat in the fourth inning. The White Sox led, 1-0, and Chicago right-hander Gavin Floyd, an Annapolis native, had yielded almost nothing.
Harper had grounded to first in his first at-bat. In his second, Floyd tried to jump ahead in the count with an 86-mph cutter. It did not cut. Harper whipped his bat through the strike zone with an acute vehemence. He plastered the bottom half of the pitch.
“It does sound different,” said center fielder Denard Span, Harper’s teammate for a spring training and change. “And it does come off different. He has quick-twitch muscles. He gets his bat through the zone. It’s pretty explosive.”
The ball came off his bat with such pace that for a moment it seemed to disappear. Or vaporize. By the time it came into focus, the ball was hurtling toward the third deck.
“Probably one of the longer ones I’ve seen him hit,” Desmond said. “And I don’t even know if he got it on the barrel.”
In batting practice earlier Wednesday afternoon, Harper took his swings as his father, Ron, watched from the stands behind the cage. Harper crushed one BP fastball off the facade of the third deck, where the Nationals display ROBINSON 42. “Did you see where that one went?” Ron Harper asked.
Now, in the game, Harper had scalded another ball deep and high to right. It came close to reaching the highest part of Nationals Park, but it crash landed well beyond the home bullpen, 420 feet from home plate according to the best estimates.