Harper part of homer history with game-tying shot

Equals Mantle, Miggy, Andruw for most playoff blasts before age 22

Harper part of homer history with game-tying shot

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper hit a monster home run off Hunter Strickland in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on Saturday. Afterward, the Giants reliever said he wouldn't be afraid to challenge Harper again.

A similar situation occurred in the seventh inning of Washington's 3-2 loss in Game 4 at AT&T Park on Tuesday night. The Nats trailed by a run. Strickland was pitching. Harper was up with one out and nobody on.

And the result looked pretty familiar, too. Harper crushed a fastball that landed in McCovey Cove to tie the score. The game-tying blast was just the third "splash hit" at AT&T Park in postseason history, and the second by an opposing player.

Power surge
Most postseason extra-base hits before age 22
Player Tm 2B 3B HR XBH
Bryce Harper Was. 2 1 4 7
Mickey Mantle NYY 1 1 4 6
Miguel Cabrera Fla. 2 0 4 6
Andruw Jones Atl. 1 0 4 5
Xander Bogaerts Bos. 3 1 0 4
Edgar Renteria Fla. 3 0 0 3
Wayne Garrett NYM 2 0 1 3
Joe DiMaggio NYY 3 0 0 3
Jimmie Foxx Phi. 1 0 2 3

The Giants ended up coming back to win, eliminating the Nationals and advancing to face the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. But that blast landed Harper in some pretty impressive postseason company.

It made him just the fourth player with four playoff homers before the age of 22. The others: Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera and Andruw Jones.

It also gave Harper seven extra-base hits, more than any 21-or-younger player in history. He passed Mantle and Cabrera, who had six each. Harper delivered an RBI double in the fifth to account for Washington's first run.

Harper also homered off Jean Machi for an insurance run during Game 3 in San Francisco on Monday. Harper's other postseason homer came against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.

As Harper was approaching the plate, he appeared to be shouting angrily at Strickland, but Harper downplayed it while meeting with the media.

  Date Time Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   SF 3, WAS 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   SF 2, WAS 1 (18 inn.) video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   WAS 4, SF 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   SF 3, WAS 2 video

"A 2-1 ballgame, you hit a homer to tie it up in the seventh, that's something you dream about," said Harper. "So to be able to do that, my emotion is that I'm going crazy. I don't even know what I'm doing. I guess you'd say I was going so crazy. I was so happy about it. They got the upper hand. They beat us, so that homer was really nothing."

Harper wasn't sure Strickland would follow through on his promise to challenge him again.

"He actually throws fuego, so you're just up there trying to put the bat on the ball," said Harper. "I respect him for giving me another 3-1 heater. That takes a lot of [guts] to be able to do that. So I tip my cap to him, I tip my cap to everybody in that dugout and in that clubhouse over there. And hopefully we'll get back to them next year."

Harper added that he wasn't certain at first that the ball would stay fair.

Harper, who had May thumb surgery that limited him to 100 games, may not have had the kind of regular season many expect as a result. But he came up big in the postseason, batting .294 with a 1.250 OPS.

"I love being in the postseason," said Harper. "I love these situations. I think a lot of guys do. I love going in and playing in these hostile environments and playing crazy games."

The Nats have won the NL East two of the past three seasons, but they have been beaten in the NLDS both times.

"I think we've done a great job the past three years," said Harper. "I think we've done great as an organization. I think we've done great as a team. I think we've seen a lot of young talent that's been produced for us, and the only way we can go is up.

"Losing to the Giants definitely hurts. We don't want to lose, but losing to one of the best teams in all of baseball, one of the best teams in the postseason. I've got so much respect for the way the fans are and the organization that the Giants are and [manager] Bruce Bochy and that whole team. They're a class act, a great organization. It stinks to lose against them, but it's all good."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.