Harper homers twice, powers Nats past Braves

The next time Julio Teheran faces the Nationals, the Braves’ No. 1 starter might want to swallow his pride and just not challenge Bryce Harper. Because what the Washington slugger has done to him is downright Barry Bonds-ian.

Harper homered with the bases empty in the first inning and homered again with them full in the second inning, powering the Nationals to a 14-4 win against the Braves at SunTrust Park and overshadowing a record-setting performance by Freddie Freeman.

Ryan Zimmerman added an eighth-inning grand slam off Ian Krol for the Nationals, who are 31-9 against the Braves since the beginning of the 2015 season.

“Zim has hit a couple similar balls at our stadium and it didn’t go,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “But the ball carries pretty good here. That’s why they have that high wall out there because it is relatively shallow.”

After sweeping a four-game series against the Padres to open SunTrust Park, the Braves have lost the first two games of a three-game series against the Nationals. They’ll try to avert a sweep by the Nationals on Wednesday night when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey faces Washington’s Stephen Strasburg in the homestand finale.

Teheran (1-1) was charged with seven hits, seven runs and three walks in just four innings, exiting with a 3.52 ERA after entering with an 0.95 ERA through three starts. The Braves have lost eight consecutive games that Teheran has started against Washington.

Harper went 4-for-4 with two homers, a double, a walk and five RBIs. The two homers and walk were against Teheran to make Harper an astounding 15-for-33 (.455) against him with three doubles, seven homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.720 OPS.

“Obviously I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Teheran said. “Just a bad day. I didn’t have it, but I battled. One guy was the guy who drove in all the runs, but that’s part of the game.”

Two of Harper’s three career grand slams have come against Teheran.

“He’s real hot right now obviously, and Julio was a little off and he got hurt,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That being said, when he left we were in the game. The eighth inning is what killed us. I was still feeling good (with the score) 7-3, and I think we had two or three at-bats left and who knows what might happen?…

“(Harper) obviously sees the ball pretty good off (Teheran). I don’t know, just hopefully you can get him to chase a little bit and get himself out.”

Freeman had a first-inning walk and third-inning home run to set an Atlanta franchise record by reaching base in 12 consecutive plate appearances, a streak that was snapped when he grounded out in the sixth inning.

Freeman, who added an RBI single in the eighth inning and is hitting .440, broke the consecutive plate-appearance record held by Jeff Burroughs, who reached base in 11 consecutive PAs in April 1978.

“It was going to end sometime, but I was hoping it wasn’t going to end tonight,” Freeman said.

By the time he broke the record the Braves trailed 6-2, with Harper’s second-inning grand slam reducing to ashes the 2-1 lead that Teheran was staked to via first-inning RBI singles from Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips.

In his past 41 games against the Braves, Harper has hit .322 with 17 doubles, 13 home runs, 36 walks and 40 RBIs.

“There’s one of those things that you can’t explain,” Freeman said of Harper’s success against two-time All-Star Teheran. “I’m sure Julio’s thrown every pitch to him. That’s just one of those things that you step in the box and feel comfortable. Hopefully the first 35 at-bats went Bryce’s way and hopefully the next 35 go Julio’s way.”

Teheran couldn’t even walk Harper without a run scoring – he bounced a ball-four pitch five feet in front of the plate in the fourth inning with runners on the corners and two outs, allowing a run to score for a 7-3 lead. Teheran left after throwing 93 pitches (55 strikes) in four innings.

After going 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his first seven starts against the Nationals including six Braves wins, Teheran is 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA in his past eight starts against them, all Braves losses. He’s allowed 11 home runs in 38 2/3 innings over his past seven starts against the Nationals.

It was his worst start since Sept. 27 at home against Phillies, when he gave up 10 hits and six runs in four innings of a 7-6 win. Teheran entered with a 0.95 ERA in three starts and exited with a 3.52 ERA.

He also gave up 11 hits, six runs and two homers in six innings of a 10-9 loss at Arizona on Aug. 24. But since the loss to the Diamondbacks, Teheran was 5-1 with a 2.64 ERA in his past 10 starts before Wednesday, allowing two runs or fewer in eight starts and only two earned runs in 19 innings over his previous three starts this season.

Teheran gave up one homer his past six starts (37 innings) before giving up two to Harper in the first two innings Wednesday. Harper’s first-inning homer came on a first-pitch fastball, 90 mph and right down the middle for 1-0 lead.

His second-inning grand slam was on an 80-mph Teheran slider at the bottom of strike zone but over the middle.

“Obviously he’s hit me really good and he’s one of the best hitters in the game,” Teheran said. “I give him the credit. But this is a long season. Today was his day and he got me twice. We’ll see what’s going to happen next time.”

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