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Bryce Harper homers twice, but Nationals drop series finale to the Mariners, 5-3

Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper hit two home runs out of the field of play in Safeco today, but the Nats came up short in the series finale with the Seattle Mariners. But seriously, did you see that first HR?

Otto Greule Jr

Bryce Harper was 0 for 9 in the Washington Nationals' three-game series in Philadelphia, which saw the NL East's division leaders drop three straight to the Phillies.

The Nats' 21-year-old left fielder was 3 for 4 with a home run in the series opener in Seattle, however, hitting a two-out solo home run on Friday night as part of the Nationals' six-home run barrage.

"I just think he's getting stronger. His hand is getting stronger, which allows him to stay back and calm his body down a little bit." -Matt Williams on Bryce Harper's power returning

After an 0 for 3 night on Saturday in the second game of the three-game set with the Mariners in Safeco Field, Harper had a .260/.337/.396 line on the year with eight doubles, two triples and eight home runs in 75 games and 298 plate appearances, and a .275/.354/.423 line, with three of his eight doubles and six of his eight home runs in 41 games and 161 PAs in the second half as he's worked his way back to full strength after suffering the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb in April which kept him out of the lineup for 57 games and sapped him of some of his power once he finally returned from the DL.

If the way he was swinging the bat on Sunday afternoon is a sign of things to come, Harper might be poised for a real breakout down the stretch.

The 2010 no.1 overall pick homered in each of his first two at bats against Mariners' right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma today, taking the 33-year-old starter deep to right, off the glass windows of the Hit it Here Cafe, just missing the "Hit it Here" target/sign in the second, and then went deep again, to center field in Safeco, the second time up in the fourth.

Harper crushed an 0-1 curve the first time up, then took a 3-1 splitter some 416ft to center in his second AB, putting the Nationals ahead 3-1 in a game they ended up losing 5-3.

Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked if the power display by Harper, who ended the day 3 for 4, was a result of the third-year outfielder changing anything with his approach?

"No. I just think he's getting stronger," Williams said. "His hand is getting stronger, which allows him to stay back and calm his body down a little bit. We've seen that over the last couple of weeks. It's getting there. He swung the bat good today."

"It takes you time to get your rhythm and timing and strength back. You see a little bit better bat speed with not as much effort..." -Matt Williams talking Bryce Harper's power

Is Harper's power returning as the Nationals head into the final month of the season a significant development?

"It's significant that he feels good," Williams said.

"And it's the case with everybody, it takes some time. You miss that kind of time, it takes you time to get your rhythm and timing and strength back. You see a little bit better bat speed with not as much effort, which is good."

"I feel pretty good up there," Harper said when he met with reporters. "Just trying to put together some good ABs and get my work in every day and see how I feel every single day, come in stick with the some routine, same plan and try to execute."

A reporter wondered how Harper felt on the first of the two home runs when he really tore into the 0-1 curve Iwakuma left up in the zone inside?

"It felt pretty good," Harper said. "To get that lead early was what we needed to do and I wish we could have won the ballgame, but sometimes that doesn't happen. So, take it down to LA and see what we can do down there."

The Nationals and Dodgers start a three-game set at Chavez Ravine at 8:10 PM EDT Monday night.

• We talked about Harper's power display and the Nationals series in Seattle after the Mariners took the series finale on Nats Nightly:

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