- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bryce Harper has had a pretty good week.

After hitting five home runs in his past two games, Harper hit a walk-off two-run homer Saturday afternoon to lead the Washington Nationals past the Atlanta Braves, 8-6. 

THE RUNDOWN: The Nationals were in firm control through the first six innings. Doug Fister retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth before giving up two hits and a run. The right-hander appeared to tire in the seventh and exited after allowing three runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings, but Washington’s offense had given him a significant cushion. The Nationals scored three runs apiece in the second and fifth, each time buoyed by a home run. Jose Lobaton hit the first, a two-run shot, and Ryan Zimmerman supplied the second, a three-run homer. The lead vanished in the eighth, when the Braves loaded the bases against Aaron Barrett and cleared them against Tanner Roark.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Harper continues to make the improbable look easy. With one out and Yunel Escobar standing on first base in the ninth, he crushed a pitch to straightaway center field for the third walk-off homer of his career. 

STAR OF THE GAME: Entering Saturday’s game, Lobaton had faced Braves right-hander Julio Teheran more frequently than all but three other big-league pitchers, and in those frequent meetings, the switch-hitting catcher had tremendous success. So it wasn’t exactly surprising when, in the second inning, Lobaton sent the first pitch he saw from Teheran into the second deck in right field for his second home run of the season. He also singled in the fifth inning, prompting Teheran to throw his hands up in the air in disgust. Lobaton is now 7-for-13 with two home runs and five RBI against Teheran in his career. He went 3-for-4 in the game.

THE TAKEAWAY: Manager Matt Williams doesn’t believe in momentum, at least not the kind that carries over from game to game. But over the past few weeks, the momentum, or confidence, in the Nationals‘ dugout has become evident. And at this point, it is entirely reasonable to view Washington’s thrilling 13-12 win in Atlanta as a turning point. That game, in which the Nationals rallied from a 9-1 deficit, sparked a streak: they have now won nine of their past 11 games, including both blowouts and squeakers, like Saturday’s game. 

SEE ALSO: Bryce Harper downplays another dazzling performance

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