Nationals' Harper to face nemesis: Giants' Cain (May 31, 2017)

BY AP • May 31, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bryce Harper will get a chance to hit against one of his least favorite pitchers when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants complete a three-game series Wednesday night.

The Nationals won the first two games 3-0 and 6-3 to move within one victory of their third road series sweep of the season.

Washington went 9-1 during a three-city trip in April, sweeping three straight from Atlanta and the New York Mets before taking three of four at Colorado.

The Nationals pounded out 14 hits in the Tuesday win over the Giants despite getting nothing out of Harper's five at-bats. He struck out three times.

Harper learned earlier in the day that he was suspended by Major League Baseball for four games for charging the mound and participating in a brawl during the eighth inning of the Monday win.

Harper believed he was justified in taking action because he felt Giants reliever Hunter Strickland intentionally hit him with a pitch. MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre seemed to agree with Harper, handing Strickland the stiffer of the penalties, a six-gamer.

Both players appealed their suspensions. They are eligible to play until their appeals are heard.

Harper clearly wasn't totally focused on the Tuesday game, having been badgered with more questions beforehand.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker tried to deflect some of the attention, insisting to a large group of reporters that he felt Harper's suspension was unfair.

"I just don't think that the judges, whoever the judges were, have ever been in the situation," he said. "Probably only Martin Luther King (Jr.) or Gandhi would have turned the other cheek and not done something reactionary."

On Wednesday, Harper must face Giants starter Matt Cain (3-3, 4.45 ERA).

Harper has only one career hit -- a three-run home run -- against Cain in 10 at-bats. The veteran Giants right-hander has struck him out the last four times they have dueled.

Cain has handled most Nationals recently, not allowing a run in either of his last two starts against them. He is 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA against Washington in his career.

Cain will be opposed by a familiar opponent -- Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer (5-3, 2.77 ERA).

The two went head-to-head in Game 4 of the 2012 World Series, with Cain and the Giants prevailing 4-3 to complete a four-game sweep of Scherzer's Detroit Tigers.

In an effort to improve upon a 2-4 record and 5.52 ERA in six career starts against the Giants, Scherzer will have to deal with someone he has never faced -- Giants outfielder Orlando Calixte.

Called up from Triple-A Sacramento earlier in the day and immediately plugged into the leadoff spot, Calixte got his first two major league hits Tuesday, including a double that drove in two of the Giants' three runs.

"I thought he had good at-bats," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's nice to get a hit your first time up leading off the game."

With the Giants searching for a regular left fielder, and with right fielder Hunter Pence on the disabled list and with center fielder Denard Span siting out the start because Washington was throwing a left-handed pitcher, Bochy wound up playing Calixte at all three outfield positions over the course of the Tuesday contest.

He became the first Giant in eight years to accomplish the feat.



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