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Nats open road trip with win


NEW YORK—Bryce Harper hammered this home run so sweetly, it sailed over the head of Mets' right-fielder Jay Bruce—twice.

“I think that's the hardest ball I've ever hit in my life,” Harper said.

Harper and the Washington Nationals battered New York from the start—romping to an 8-3 victory and reversing a recent slide by the NL East leaders.

Harper lined a solo drive in the first inning that flew about a dozen rows deep into the seats.

The ball ricocheted out of the stands in a hurry and Bruce tried but couldn't catch the rebound, the carom carrying far onto the grass.

“It wasn't a moonshot. That was like a Hank Aaron shot,” marvelled manager Dusty Baker, who played with the one-time home-run king.

Harper's 17th home run left the bat at 116.3 m.p.h.—his hardest-hit ball since Statcast began tracking in 2015.

“That was a different sound,” said winning pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

“When you hear a loud sound like that, you know it's going far.”

Daniel Murphy added three more hits against his former team while Michael A. Taylor hit the Nationals' league-leading 100th home run to cap a five-run fifth.

Baker won on his 68th birthday. Also celebrating birthdays yesterday: Harper's dad and Gonzalez's mom.

“First off, happy birthday to Dusty. Have to do your best not to lose on his day,” Gonzalez said.

Washington had lost five-of-six going into this four-game series while the sub-.500 Mets had won five-of-six.

The banged-up Mets lost more than a game.

A day after pitcher Matt Harvey and second baseman Neil Walker left with injuries that will put both of them on the disabled list, centre-fielder Juan Lagares broke his left thumb trying to make a diving catch.

Earlier in the game, the former Gold Glover threw out Harper at the plate.

The Mets have gotten hurt a lot this season, enough that manager Terry Collins said he wasn't surprised when a trainer told him Lagares had snapped the thumb on his glove hand.

“That's kind of my thought. How many can we possibly continue to have to play through?” he noted.

“But you know what the answer is? As many as pop up,” he added.

“That's how many you've got to play through.”

Gonzalez (6-1) gave up two hits and five hits in seven innings, and improved to 10-1 at Citi Field.

A career .102 hitter coming in, he helped himself with an RBI single.

Robert Gsellman (5-4) was tagged for seven runs and 11 hits in five innings.

He had won three-straight starts but fell behind when Harper homered.

Wilmer Flores and Rene Rivera homered for the Mets.

Murphy tripled, singled twice, and drove in two runs.

He hit safely in all 19 games versus the Mets last year after they let him go the previous winter, and now is 41-104 (.394) with seven doubles, a triple, eight home runs, and 28 RBIs in 26 career games against his former team.

Murphy, a post-season star in the Mets' run into the 2015 World Series, typically plays down the revenge angle, basically saying it's always good to beat a division rival.

If there is any motivation, Baker doesn't mind.

“I hope he's fuelled the rest of his career,” Baker said.

Elsewhere in the NL, Milwaukee beat St. Louis 6-4 and Colorado topped San Francisco 10-9.

Cleveland dumped the L.A. Dodgers 12-5 while Philadelphia nipped Boston 1-0 in interleague play.

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