Nationals blast Pirates

Associated Press


Moved to the leadoff spot for the first time since 2013, Bryce Harper showed signs of breaking out of his slump.

Harper hit a three-run homer that helped Max Scherzer win his fifth straight start as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-4 Wednesday night.

“Seriously, I thought I missed that ball,” Harper said. “I thought I got the pop-up down the line more than I did the homer, but it went over the fence, so I’ll take it.”

Harper entered in a 5-for-35 slump and had not gotten an extra-base hit since April 16. He grounded out in the first inning against Chad Kuhl (3-2), followed Wilmer Difo’s go-ahead homer in the third with a flyout, then gave the Nationals a 5-0 lead in the fifth with his ninth homer this season.

“I really believe, even his first at-bat, he got pitches to hit today, and that was good for him,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

Harper walked for the major league-leading 39th time this season in the sixth, then left the game with Washington ahead 12-0. He led off in 16 games in 2013, his second major league season.

Harper raised his batting average to .250. The home run was the fifth of his career from the leadoff slot.

“You’re not going to walk him men on first and second,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Scherzer (6-1) allowed two runs and three hits in 61/3 innings, striking out eight and walked one as his ERA rose slightly to 1.79.

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