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Even In Defeat, Bryce Harper Owns The Hell Out Of Hunter Strickland

A funny moment occurred in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Bryce Harper, pinch-hitting in the night game after starting the first leg of today’s doubleheader, came to the plate to face Nationals reliever and personal nemesis Hunter Strickland. In an awkward reversal, this put the home crowd in the position of booing Harper as he faced a guy who was, until fairly recently, an outright villain for D.C. baseball fans.

Strickland earned his notoriety among Nationals fans for his part in a huge 2017 brawl between the Nationals, then Harper’s team, and the Giants, then Strickland’s. Strickland, who’d apparently been stewing for the better part of three damn years over Harper taking him deep in the 2014 playoffs, got his revenge by rifling a 98-mph fastball directly into Harper’s hip on the first pitch of their first meeting since that postseason series. Harper immediately charged the mound, and all hell broke loose.

Strickland, it turns out, is a real big dumbass with the world’s most sensitive ego, and Harper was, at the time, Washington’s favorite son. But this is a handy reminder of the fickle loyalties of sports fans—for the crime of exercising his right to choose his employer in free agency, Harper is now also a villain in D.C., and Strickland’s maniac aggression toward Harper is evidently utterly forgiven now that Strickland is wearing a Nationals jersey.

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The Nationals eliminated the Phillies from the Wild Card chase in the day game Tuesday, so Strickland and Nats fans could reasonably point to the scoreboard, whatever else happens. Still, this was oddly satisfying. With the home crowd letting him have it, Harper smashed the hardest hit dinger by any Phillies player this season, a no-doubter bomb to the second deck beyond right field:

It’s been a mild bummer of a season for Harper in Philadelphia, but he has certainly had his moments silencing a jeering Nationals crowd that not too long ago worshipped the very ground he walked on. It’s cosmically right, here, that Strickland should be denied his full measure of the joy of having clinched a playoff berth at the expense of a division rival because a guy he once plunked out of pure petty red-assedness cranked his weak shit into the mesosphere.*

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