Bryce Harper became the tenth-youngest player to hit three home runs in a game today as his Washington Nationals defeated the Miami Marlins, 7-5. Harper had a chance for his fourth homer in the seventh inning, but he hit an RBI groundout to second base for his fifth RBI of the game. That run put the Nationals ahead 6-2, but it ended up being an important run when Giancarlo Stanton hit a three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning.
Harper is 22 years and 202 days old, just two days older than Joe DiMaggio was when he hit three homers for the New York Yankees against the St. Louis Browns on June 13, 1937. Only two National Leaguers have done it at a younger age: Mel Ott for the New York Giants against the Boston Braves on August 31, 1930, at 21 years and 182 days old; and Eddie Mathews, who hit three for the Braves against the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 27, 1952, fifteen days before his twenty-first birthday.[table “” not found /]
Harper, who won the NL Rookie of the Year Award as a 19-year-old in 2012, is looking to bounce back this year after struggling in 2014. The injury-prone outfielder has played only 218 games the past two seasons, but he has been healthy and in the lineup every day for the Nationals so far this year. After today’s performance, Harper is hitting .265/.416/.561 with eight home runs and 23 runs batted in. He also leads the league with 26 walks.
Harper hit a 393-foot homer over the left-field wall to lead off the second inning. In the third, he hit a 442-foot blast to right-center with one runner on. He came up again with no one on base in he fifth, and he hit a 445-foot shot to right-center again. All three home runs came off of Tom Koehler, against whom Harper had been 1-for-17 coming into the game.
The Marlins scored three runs in the eighth to pull within 7-5, and when the first two batters got on base against Nationals closer Drew Storen in the top of the ninth, it looked like Harper might get one more at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. Had the Marlins tied the game or taken the lead, Harper would have batted fourth in the bottom of the ninth. But Storen got a flyout and two strikeouts to lock down the game and deny Harper another chance to become the youngest player to hit four homers in a game.