It took him 14 games and 58 plate appearances in PNC Park, but Bryce Harper finally homered in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home on Tuesday night in Washington’s 8-4 win.
With the two-run blast on a 1-2 pitch from Wade LeBlanc in his final trip to the plate, Harper has now homered in every National League ballpark.
So did he know he hadn’t homered in PNC before he hit his 13th of the season in the top of the ninth? Of course he did.
“I knew that,” Harper told MASN’s Dan Kolko after the game, “but going into that game you’re just trying to get good at bats and try to put your team up on the board and do the things you can to help your team win.
“So I’m able to get that out of the way and definitely happy to check it off the list.”
More important than his career checklist of course, was the fact that Harper’s homer gave the Nationals breathing room, putting them up 8-4 after a late-game rally by the Pirates in the series opener.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker noted after the game that Harper’s blast became even more important when the Bucs threatened again in the bottom of the ninth, with a two-out single and double off Koda Glover bringing what could have been the go-ahead run to the plate if not for the home run.
“That was a huge home run that Harp hit, cause that made a two-run game into a four-run game,” Baker said.
“And as you see, they might have had the tying runs on base had he not hit that, so you never know, we left some runners on third, less than two outs, and I’ve always said, they’ve got to get better at that, because those runs come to haunt you sometimes.”
Not tonight, however.
Harper’s laser of a liner hit the fence behind the last row of seats in right field, or else it would have ended up in the Allegheny River.
It also gave the Nationals a boost of confidence.
“It’s always a boost, especially in the ninth like that cause we hadn’t scored in a while,” Baker said.
“That was a huge boost. The guys were saying, ‘Screw the save!’ and ‘We need the runs,’ led by [Max Scherzer], so we’ll take all the runs we can when we can get them.”