NEW YORK -- At 20, Bryce Harper has already made an impact on the Nationals, and Saturday afternoon was no different as his home run in the eighth inning helped the Nationals edge the Mets, 7-6, at Citi Field.
The game was tied at 6 when Harper swung at the first pitch from left-hander Josh Edgin and hit a mammoth home run over the right-center-field wall. The ball hit the top of the Dunkin' Donuts sign near the back of the bullpen. Harper said he was looking to swing early in the count because he didn't want to see a curveball from Edgin.
"Edgin is good out there. He throws 94-95 [mph] and he has a pretty good hook," Harper said. "You have to get him early. If you try to get him late, you are kind of in trouble. So I tried to go up there, square something up, get on base and I got lucky."
It was Harper's second home run of the game and the fourth multihomer game of his career. He ended up having a great day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
"He beats you in so many ways," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He can hit a homer, but he can also steal second and steal third if he gets a single. He's a dangerous player. As I said last year when I saw him for the first time, when this guy's done playing, he's going to set a lot of records."
Harper was humble when talking about his game-winning home run. He would rather talk about the home run Adam LaRoche hit in the fifth inning or the one Ian Desmond smoked in the second inning.
"I really don't care about that. I'm excited that we got the 'W,'" Harper said. "After last night, everybody really swung it well. Rochey had a big three-run homer, Desi had a big one in the second. I was just happy we got the 'W.'"
But there is no denying it: Harper is the best hitter on the Nationals right now. Harper is hitting .371 with seven home runs and 14 RBIs. All three categories lead the team.
"He can hit. He is pretty special," teammate Kurt Suzuki said. "The way he goes about it, it's awesome. He hits the ball to all fields. He hits the ball over the fence to all fields. When a guy can do that, he is dangerous. His contact rate is pretty amazing. He battles offspeed pitches. He is not just a power guy, he is a good hitter."
LaRoche also admires Harper as a hitter. He believes Harper's confidence goes a long way.
"You don't see a lot of holes in that swing. You have a guy that can go foul ball to foul ball," LaRoche said. "He is getting better on the offspeed stuff. He is going to be deadly. He is really good now. I can't wait to see him in a couple of years."
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez started for the Nationals and had a meltdown during the fourth inning. He was solid during the first three innings and was given a 3-0 lead, highlighted by a two-run homer from Harper. But after there were two outs in the fourth, Gonzalez allowed five runs, as 10 batters came to the plate in the frame.
Collin Cowgill and Justin Turner had two-run singles, while Daniel Murphy had an RBI single to give the Mets a 5-3 lead.
"It's one of those things you can't explain," Suzuki said. "[Gonzalez] threw some good pitches and started falling behind the count a little bit. The curveball started popping up. He threw two over [Lucas Duda's] head. He threw a couple up to righties. It happened with two outs. ... It happens, you learn from it and move on."
But it was LaRoche who prevented Gonzalez from getting the loss. In the top of the fifth inning, after two quick outs, Aaron Laffey walked Jayson Werth and allowed a double to Harper to put runners on second and third. LaRoche came to the plate, swung at a 1-2 pitch and hit the ball over the left-center-field wall for a three-run homer, giving Washington a 6-5 lead.
"It's nice to be able to answer back and put some runs up," LaRoche said. "I give a lot of credit to the people in front of me. Jayson went to a full count and Bryce hits a huge double. It was big. [Laffey] left a slider over the plate. You never know here. This place is weird. Sometimes, you hit some balls that you think are going and they don't go anywhere. The last couple of days, the ball has been traveling pretty well."
The bullpen couldn't hold on to the lead, however. The Mets tied the score at 6 in the bottom of the seventh inning off Ryan Mattheus. With a runner on first, John Buck hit a ball down the left-field line for a double. Harper retrieved the ball and threw a strike to Desmond, who had a chance to get Murphy at the plate, but Desmond bobbled the ball, allowing Murphy to score without a throw.
Right-hander Craig Stammen was the dominant reliever, striking out five hitters in two innings, while Rafael Soriano saved his sixth game of the year.
"It was an exciting game," Harper said. "It was fun to go out there, really go back and forth all game and have some fun like that."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.