If anyone should be walking Bryce Harper intentionally, it's probably Miami Marlins' right-hander Tom Koehler, who started the series opener for the visiting Fish in the nation's capital tonight.
Harper started the four-game set with the Washington Nationals' divisional rivals 9 for 28 overall (.321/.387/1.000) with a double and six home runs in 31 plate appearances against Koehler in their respective careers.
He went 2 for 4 with a double and a homer in their one previous matchup in 2016 before tonight.
Nationals Park was, of course, the setting for Harper's three-home run game against Koehler early last season.
Harper walked in each of his first two plate appearances tonight, taking his 19th and 20th free passes in his last 33 plate appearances and his 36th and 37th walks of the year in 147 PAs, but was stranded each time.
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez retired ten straight batters between the first and fifth innings, but issued a leadoff walk to Marcell Ozuna to snap that streak, and Daniel Murphy botched a routine grounder to second base from Chris Johnson that should have been a 4-6-3 DP in the next AB.
Adeiny Hechavarria sent another grounder to second base in the at bat and that followed, and seeing he had no shot at a DP, Murphy threw to first where Gonzalez and Ryan Zimmerman came together late and had the ball go between them for a two-run error, 2-0 Marlins.
Gonzalez threw 38 pitches in the fifth, taking him from 51 to 90 pitches overall.
Harper singled up the middle with two out in the Nationals' half of the fifth, improving to 10 for 29 career vs Koehler, but after he moved into scoring position on a swinging bunt single by Murphy, he and Murphy were stranded. Still 2-0 Fish.
Three straight singles in the sixth loaded the bases for the Marlins and ended Gonzalez's night after 106 pitches, but Yusmeiro Petit got a swinging K and Oliver Perez got a double play to keep it close.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 106 P, 65 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
Jose Lobaton singled off Koehler with two out in the Nationals' half of the sixth, so Don Mattingly went to his bullpen for Bryan Morris vs left-handed pinch hitter Stephen Drew, who hit a two-run home run to right to tie it up, 2-2.
• Tom Koehler's Line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 Ks, 107 P, 57 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
Anthony Rendon walked for the second time tonight to put a runner on for Harper in the seventh and Harper worked the count full before crushing a 3-2 slider from Kyle Barraclough, sending a 2-run blast into the right field seats.
Harper's 11th, 4-2 Nationals.
Koehler made it out of the game unscathed, but Barraclough gave up his second home run in two career at bats vs Harper... the only two home runs he's allowed in the majors in 36+ innings pitched.
Giancarlo Stanton sent a fly to right that Harper couldn't catch at the wall in the top of the eighth, and Stanton scored on a groundout by Chris Johnson to cut the Nats' lead in half, 4-3.
Chris Heisey hit a pinch hit home run in the Nationals' eighth to make it 5-3 and Jonathan Papelb... uh, Felipe Rivero came out in the ninth actually, and hit the first batter he faced, Derek Dietrich, before striking out Cole Gillespie.
Papelbon came on with one on and one out and struck out J.T. Realmuto and retired Martin Prado to end it. Ballgame.
Nationals now 22-13
• NATS NOTES:
- Miami and Washington split each of the series they've played against one another before this weekend, with the Marlins taking the first game of a two-game set in D.C. early last month and the middle two of the four-game set in Miami in mid-April.
- Miami holds the all-time lead in the series with Washington, 110-96.
- In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, however, Washington is 40-23 against Miami since 2013.
- Since the Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins in 2012, the Nationals are 49-32 against their divisional rivals.
- Tom Koehler started the series opener at (4-7) in his career against the Nationals with a 4.25 ERA in 11 outings.
- Gio Gonzalez started the night (6-3) with a 2.38 ERA in 10 career outings against the Miami Marlins. He was 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA in starts against the Marlins in Nationals Park.
- Miami was 9-11 all-time on Friday the 13ths before tonight's matchup.
- The Marlins were (5-0) in games in which left-handers start against them this season.
- Marcell Ozuna's .905 SLG vs left-handers this season is the second-best among major league hitters with a minimum of 20 plate appearances.
- Ozuna started the series in D.C. in the midst of an 11-game hit streak, over which he was 19 for 44 (.432 AVG) with four home runs.
- Daniel Murphy went 3 for 4 on Wednesday night, which was his fourth consecutive multi-hit game and his 18th multi-hit effort in 33 games played so far this season.
- Murphy started the day leading the majors in batting average (.409) and OPS (1.110).
- Early in the first year of his 3-year/$37.5M deal with the Nationals, Murphy has hits in 28 of 33 games.
- Christian Yelich's 4.34 pitches per plate appearance is currently the 5th best pitches per PA in the National League.
- In today's Marlins-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Miami is 13-4 overall since April 24th, tied with Seattle for the third-best winning percentage in baseball since that date.
- Miami was 9-10 against Washington last season, but just 3-7 in Nationals Park and they had lost 11 of their last 16 in D.C. before tonight.
Nationals now 22-13