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Nationals’ Bryce Harper homers twice in 7-3 win over the Phillies in D.C.

Bryce Harper hit his 11th and 12th home runs of 2018 in his first two at bats in Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The second of Bryce Harper’s two home runs on Friday night traveled 473 feet to center, landing up high on the batter’s eye green in center field in Nationals Park. Did it feel any different than his other home runs? It sure traveled a long distance to center field.

MLB.com’s Andrew Simon noted that it’s Harper’s longest of the Statcast era (since 2015).

“It’s not how far it’s how many,” Harper told reporters, repeating himself. “It’s not how far it’s how many.”

The first home run, Harper’s 11th of the season, came in his first at bat of the game against Philadelphia Phillies’ right-hander Nick Pivetta, on a 96 mph 2-1 fastball that Harper hit out the other way to get the Nationals on the board, up 1-0 in what ended up a 7-3 win.

“Just going up there trying to have a good at bat, seeing some pitches, and putting the barrel on the ball,” Harper said of the opposite field blast.

Washington’s skipper, Davey Martinez, who moved a frustrated Harper to the leadoff spot four games back after he’d been walked repeatedly in the first month-plus, said putting a bat like the 25-year-old slugger’s up top is a good way to get things going early to light a spark.

“It pumps everybody up, man,” Martinez said. “It really it does. Leadoff hitter hits a home run to lead off the game it’s pretty nice. But in general all the boys played really well, they really did. Good game.”

In four games as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter, Harper is now 6 for 17 with four home runs and nine runs driven in.

In four games since Martinez moved Harper to the top spot, along with Trea Turner and Matt Adams batting second and third, respectively, the three of them have combined to go 16 for 46 (.348 AVG) with two doubles, nine home runs, and 21 RBIs.

Martinez was asked about the changes he’s seen from Harper. Is there anything different in his approach in the last few games?

“What I do know is that he’s getting ready to hit,” Martinez said. “They’re not going to walk him, and if they do it’s not intentionally. We tell him every day, ‘Hey, be ready to hit, from the first pitch on, be ready to hit,’ and he’s doing that. He’s taking some really good swings. He hit just missed a couple balls today, but he hit them good, so he had good swings all day.”

The Nationals’ win in the opener with the Phillies was their sixth straight overall, and they’re a game over .500 now at 17-16.

“I think we’re doing a great job,” Harper said. “Keep having good at bats, keep pitching the ball well, bullpen threw the ball well, I think as a team just trying to get some at bats going and staying strong out there and doing things we can to get on base, and score some runs and win some ballgames.”