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Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper answers questions with strong postseason run

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Washington Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper hit three home runs in four games in the NLDS with the San Francisco Giants, and answered a lot of questions that lingered after his second straight injury-shortened season. And he's still only 21...

Ezra Shaw

Bryce Harper drove in one of the Washington Nationals' two runs in their 3-2 loss in Game 1 of the NLDS with a solo blast into the upper deck in right in Nationals Park off hard-throwing San Francisco Giants' right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland.

So did veteran Giants' skipper Bruce Bochy think twice about bringing the rookie reliever on again with Harper due up when the Giants took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning in Game 4 in AT&T Park?

"I think that, like everything else, there [are] questions about Bryce and his future and whether he's going to live up to the hype that everybody has put on him. I think he answered a lot of those..." -Matt Williams on Bryce Harper in the postseason

"Was there any thought in mind of not using Strickland in the seventh?" a reporter asked.

"No, he was our seventh inning guy," Bochy said after the game.

"Even with Harper coming up?"

"Yeah, yeah, and you're hoping lightning doesn't hit twice, but it did," Bochy responded, drawing a laugh according to the transcript of the post game interview.

Harper took Strickland deep again and his seventh-inning home run, his third of the series, was a 377-foot blast that cleared the right field stands in the Giants' home and the walkway beyond them, landing in the water in McCovey Cove to momentarily tie things up at 2-2.

The Giants rallied to take the lead in the much-discussed home-half of the frame, of course, so as Harper himself put it afterwards, the home run, impressive as it was, "was nothing."

"They got the upper hand," Harper told reporters including the Washington Post's James Wagner, "and they beat us so that homer was nothing."

In his last at bat of the second postseason run in his first three major league campaigns, Harper, who'd doubled to left in the fifth to drive in the other run the Nationals scored in their season-ending loss in Game 4, drew a patient, seven-pitch walk, refusing to bite on the junk Giants' closer Santiago Casilla threw him.

"I know that we're proud of him. I know that much. I know that he's got great talent. I know that at this point he is healthy and certainly now, looking forward, with great anticipation to next year." -Matt Williams on Bryce Harper's postseason run

Harper was stranded on the basepaths when Wilson Ramos grounded out to end the game and the Nationals' 2014 campaign.

In spite of an 0 for 7 showing in Game 2 in which he went hitless over 18 innings, Harper finished the four-game set 5 for 17 (.294/.368/.882) with a double, three home runs, two walks and three Ks in the NLDS.

Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked in the immediate aftermath of the Nationals' loss to the Giants in Game 4 what the baseball world thinks of the 2010 no.1 overall pick now after seeing what he could do on a national stage.

You know, I don't know," Williams said. "I know that we're proud of him. I know that much. I know that he's got great talent. I know that at this point he is healthy and certainly now, looking forward, with great anticipation to next year.

"So I think he played really well in this series."

"The Giants are a great team," Harper told reporters in San Francisco after the Nationals were eliminated.

"We don't want to lose, but losing to one of the best teams in all of baseball, one of the best teams in the postseason...

"I've got so much respect for the way the fans are and the organization of the Giants, Bruce Bochy and the whole team. They're a class act, great organization. Sucks to lose against them, but it's all good."

"I think that, like everything else, there [are] questions about Bryce and his future and whether he's going to live up to the hype that everybody has put on him," Williams told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies this morning, three days after his first season as the Nats' manager ended.

"I think he answered a lot of those, and I think that's great. Albeit in a losing effort, I think he answered a lot of those questions."

After Harper's Game 1 home run, which got the Nationals on the board after they were shut out for five-plus innings by Jake Peavy in the series opener, Williams was asked if he believed in Harper's ability to come up big in big moments, which he did on several occasions in his second postseason run?

"He's someone I believe in, period," Williams said. "From Spring Training on, of course, he is one of our guys. He is an important piece for us."

In nine postseason games, Harper's now 8 for 40 with two doubles, a triple and four home runs, and he's still only 21 years old... at least for six more days.