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Bryce Harper was tagged with the "phenom" label by the time he was 16, but the Washington Nationals' center fielder played the role of savior on Thursday in helping his team snap a six-game losing streak. After the Nationals squandered a four-run lead in the top of the ninth versus Pittsburgh, Harper's first career walk-off homer gave Washington a much-needed victory and some momentum heading into a four-game series with the visiting New York Mets.
"We really needed it," Harper said. "Hopefully this one will carry on into (Friday) and the next day." Washington trails NL East leader Atlanta by eight games and is two ahead of the Mets, who are coming off a four-game split with the Braves. New York is tied with the Nationals in the loss column entering Friday's doubleheader, but plays considerably better on the road (24-23) and has its own phenom, Matt Harvey, set to start Game 2.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, WPIX (New York), MASN2 (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mets RH Matt Harvey (8-2, 2.23 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.03)
Harvey is coming off a dominant performance against Philadelphia on Sunday, when he allowed three hits and struck out 10 in seven innings. It was the sixth time Harvey fanned at least 10 batters this season and gave him a National League-leading 157 strikeouts. He is 1-0 in two starts against the Nationals this year, including an 11-strikeout performance on June 28 in which he received a no-decision.
Ohlendorf will be making his second start of the year and first since holding Colorado to one run on two hits over six innings on June 12. He pitched well in relief last Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out as many in six innings. The Mets have been a nemesis for Ohlendorf, who has surrendered 16 runs on 20 hits over eight innings against New York.
1. Harvey is 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA in eight road starts this year.
2. The Nationals and Mets have split eight meetings this season.
3. Washington had scored only 13 runs during its six-game skid before breaking out for nine runs Thursday.
PREDICTION: Mets 5, Nationals 1.