Bryce Harper homered in his first at bat off the DL on July 1st, taking Milwaukee Brewers' right-hander Yovani Gallardo deep to left for an opposite field blast and the 20-year-old outfielder's 13th home run of 2013. Washington's 2010 no.1 overall pick missed the entire month of June with bursitis in his left knee, but came back swinging.
Harper struggled at the plate over the next three weeks, however, going 14 for 66 (.212/.325/288) with three doubles and a triple in 18 games after returning to the Nats' lineup. Harper would go 72 at bats between home run no.13 and 14 of his second major league season. His fourteenth was the first walk-off home run of Harper's career though...
On July 25th in Nationals Park, the Nats made a four-run first against the Pittsburgh Pirates hold up through seven and a half, then added to their lead with a three-run inning that gave them a 7-3 advantage. Rafael Soriano took the mound in a non-save situation in the top of the ninth, and the Nationals' 33-year-old closer walked the first two batters he faced and gave up an RBI double before recording the first out. After an RBI single by Bucs' backstop Russell Martin made it 7-5, acting Nats' skipper Randy Knorr, who took over on the bench when Davey Johnson was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the home-half of the fifth, brought left-hander Ian Krol in to face Pirates' left-handed hitting first baseman Pedro Alvarez.
Krol walked Alvarez, and one out later gave up a game-tying, two-out, two-run double that made it 7-7 after eight and a half.
Kurt Suzuki singled off right-handed reliever Bryan Morris with one down in the Nats' ninth and Roger Bernadina avoided a double play after grounding into a force at second, so Bryce Harper came to the plate with two down and the go-ahead run on first and took a 1-1 cutter outside from Morris for a ride to left-center and over the # in the hashtag on the #NATITUDE wall for the first walk-off home run of the Nationals' slugger's career.
Harper didn't know it went out until he got to second base. As he rounded third, his teammates surrounded home plate and waited. Harper tossed his helmet aside as he approached the gathered crowd and then took a beating as part of the impromptu celebration.
"That was huge," Randy Knorr told reporters after the game.
"Harper was great," he continued, "I mean, [Morris] is a pretty good pitcher out there and 'Zuki gets the base hit, Bernie beats out the double play ball and Harper gets a good pitch to hit. And that's what we need right now."
The win snapped a six-game losing streak. Knorr said what would have been a heartbreaking seventh-straight loss instead ended up a celebration. "To tell you how it feels [to win] just walk into the clubhouse right now. You'd [think] we won the World Series or something."
• Note on the photo up top: "Seriously, Kurt Suzuki's excitement alone makes this one of the best images of the season."
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