WASHINGTON -- In the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, Giants reliever Juan Gutierrez delivered a first-pitch four-seam fastball to Bryce Harper. The ball was letter-high and just a shade inside. Harper turned his hips, connected with the barrel of the bat and sent a line drive screaming down the right-field line.
As Harper watched from the batter's box, the ball clanked off the yellow foul pole for a home run, giving the Nationals a six-run lead in an eventual 14-6 victory in the series finale against San Francisco.
It was the 21-year-old's fourth home run in his past 17 games. Before that stretch, Harper had three home runs all season, though he missed 57 games with a torn left thumb ligament earlier in the year.
The recent power surge from Harper hasn't been a result of increased focus on long balls, according to manager Matt Williams. The first-year skipper said Harper's opposite-field double off left-hander Jeremy Affedlt in the sixth was much more indicative of the reason for Harper's recent success.
"He's hit a lot of balls back through the middle in recent days, which tells me that he's seeing it and staying back," Williams said. "It's funny how those come when you're hitting the ball back through the middle. ... If he hits a ball through the middle consistently, he'll get pitches to hit where he can pull it and be able to hit a ball over the fence."