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Washington Nationals win fourth straight, 9-3 over Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryce Harper homers again, appears to like leading off...

Bryce Harper led off the Nationals first with a home run and went 3 for 5 on the night in a 9-3 win over the Pirates in D.C.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg struck out 11 on 104 pitches, and the Washington Nationals scored early and often, knocking Pittsburgh Pirates’ righty Ivan Nova out after 4 23 innings pitched, over which he gave up 11 hits and eight runs, five earned.

Bryce Harper homered in his first at bat of the night and went 3 for 5 with two runs scored and three RBIs in the leadoff spot. Matt Adams homered for the third time in two days, and the Nationals won their third straight over the Pirates and fourth straight overall.

Strasburg vs the Pirates: In spite of an up and down start to the season, which included three straight losses going into tonight’s matchup, Stephen Strasburg has put up some impressive numbers over the last year.

Going back to August 17, 2017, the 29-year-old righty was ranked third among major league pitchers with at least 10 starts, with a 2.03 ERA, leading all National League starters in ERA over that stretch, while also ranking first in the NL in opponents’ OBP (.242), and SLG (1st, .297), second in opponents’ AVG (.189), and fifth in total strikeouts (106).

He was taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight and trying to help the Nationals to their third straight win the series and fourth straight win overall.

Back-to-back, one-out singles, and an overturned call on a neighborhood play at second gave the Pirates a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity in the first, and a weak grounder to short off of Corey Dickerson’s bat brought in a run when the Nats couldn’t turn a double play, 1-0. That’s all they got in the first though.

Strasburg took the mound in the second with a 2-1 lead after Bryce Harper and Matt Adams homered off Pirates’ righty Ivan Nova in the bottom of the first, and tossed an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame, but the visitors tied it up in the third with Gregory Polanco doubling with one down and scoring on a two-out RBI single by Dickerson, 2-2.

Strasburg held the Pirates there through five, as the Nationals jumped out to a 4-2 lead, and blew it open with a four-run bottom of the fifth, 8-2, but Francisco Cervelli hit a first-pitch to right in the sixth, for a one-out opposite field home run, 8-3.

A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh ended Strasburg’s night. He picked up two Ks in his final inning of work, leaving him with 11 total.

Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 104 P, 69 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

No Other Vehicle Available: Pirates’ right-hander Ivan Nova took the mound tonight to face the Nationals after going (2-0) with a 2.28 ERA in his last four starts and 27 23 IP and (2-0) with a 3.28 ERA in four starts and 24 23 IP on the road so far in 2018. He was coming off a scoreless outing against the Detroit Tigers in which he gave up just six hits in eight innings.

Five pitches in, any hope of a second consecutive shutout for Nova ended when Bryce Harper hit a 2-2 changeup to to right-center for a leadoff bomb. Harper’s 10th, 1-1 in the nation’s capital.

One out later, Matt Adams hit a 94 mph 1-1 fastball outside to left for a towering home run that cleared the outfield wall for Adams’ third in the last two days and his 6th of 2018. 2-1 Nationals.

Harper was 2 for 2 with a homer and a double (No. 2) after he hit a lower liner to right field on a 1-2 fastball in the bottom of the third, and he took third base on a bunt single by Trea Turner before scoring on an RBI single to right by Adams, 3-2.

Pedro Severino and Wilmer Difo hit leadoff and one-out singles, respectively, off Nova in the fourth, and Severino scored from third on a force at second off Harper’s bat to make it a 4-2 game in the home team’s favor.

A leadoff walk and back-to-back singles gave the Nats a bases-loaded no-out opportunity in the fifth, and a sharp grounder to second off Andrew Stevenson’s bat ricocheted off Pirates’ second baseman Max Moroff’s glove and shot out into center, allowing two runs to score, 6-2.

One out later, Wilmer Difo beat out a throw to first base on a potential 4-6-3 DP, allowing run No. 7 to score, 7-2 Nationals, and Harper followed with an RBI single to right, 8-2, on Nova’s 94th and final pitch of the night.

Ivan Nova’s Line: 4.2 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 94 P, 59 S, 8/1 GO/FO.

#LetBrycePlay: Bryce Harper homered in his first at bat tonight, and doubled in the third, leading off in each inning, getting pitches to hit, and connecting.

His three extra base hits in two games were three more than he’d hit in the previous twelve.

Here’s what Davey Martinez had to say about what he saw from his 25-year-old right fielder after Harper actually got something to swing at for the first time in a while last night:

“He got pitches to hit today, and that was good. That was good for him. He got to swing the bat, and felt like he participated instead of going up there and walking really. I mean, he felt good.”

Harper looked like he was enjoying not getting walked consistently again tonight.

He stepped in again with runners on the corners and one out in the fourth, and grounded into a force at second, but brought in a run, beating the relay to first, 4-2 Nationals.

Harper singled to drive in a run in the fifth as well, making it an 8-2 game at that point.

Turner Rolling: Going into tonight’s game, Trea Turner had reached base safely in 16 of 28 plate appearances, putting up a .571 OBP in six games over that stretch, in which he’d gone 12 for 24 (.500 AVG) with three doubles, six RBIs, three stolen bases, and five runs scored.

On the current homestand, Turner was 7 for 18 (.389/.500/.500) with two doubles, four walks, and four Ks in five games heading into tonight’s matchup against the Pirates.

He bunted his way on in the third inning tonight, making it 17 of 30 plate appearances in which he’d reached base safely over the last seven games.

BULLPEN ACTION: Kyle Crick took over for Ivan Nova in the fifth, and came back out in the bottom of the sixth, giving up a one-out double to right field by Howie Kendrick and a two-out RBI single by Andrew Stevenson, 9-3.

Steven Brault got the seventh for the Pirates, and worked around a one-out double by Wilmer Difo for a scoreless frame.

Trevor Gott got the eighth for the Nationals, and gave up a leadoff walk, before erasing it with a 5-4-3 DP. He completed a scoreless, 18-pitch frame.

Carlos Torres took over in the ninth and worked around a two-out single for a scoreless frame. Ballgame.

Final Score: 9-3 Nationals

Nationals now 15-16