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After a rough year, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, hasn’t been boisterous or even all that talkative this spring. Instead, he has bulked up, learned to keep calm and focused, and is tearing the cover off the ball.

In retrospect, it’s not hard to connect the dots, which is why MLB wasted little time in doling out suspensions to both players Tuesday afternoon. Harper got four games, which based on precedent sounds about right (Manny Machado got four games for his role in a similar incident last season). And Strickland got six games, which seems a little light, considering that amounts to about two or three innings missed for a reliever, as opposed to Harper’s 36 innings. But let’s imagine that Harper had never charged the mound in the first place. Let’s pretend that instead of blowing a gasket, Harper simply laid down his bat and took the base that he had just earned. What then?

Would plate umpire Brian Gorman have issued a warning to Strickland and the Giants and/or the Nationals? Maybe so, given that the projectile in question was upper-90s cheese right at the hip on the first pitch of the at-bat. Then again, maybe not. After all, it had been 965 days since Harper’s homer against Strickland.

Washington Nationals star right fielder Bryce Harper agreed to terms on a contract for the 2018 season earlier in the day, and then hit a two-out, walk-off home run to beat the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.

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Harper will make $21.625 million next season, as first reported by FanRag Sports and confirmed by ESPN. The agreement locks up Harper for his final arbitration-eligible year. He can become a free agent after the 2018 season.

“That was one of the longest f—ing home runs I’ve ever seen,” said Washington Nationals interim manager Chris Speier after his team’s 5-1 win over the visiting San Diego Padres on Friday night. The home run in question was a two-run, seventh-inning moon shot that Harper deposited into the third deck. It was just the sixth jack ever to reach the upper bowl of Nats Park. Although five of those six have come off of Harper’s bat, this one had added significance because of what had happened earlier in the game. 

The last time Harper was intentionally walked that many times over such a short span was May 2016, during the infamous four-game series at Wrigley Field. Officially, the Cubs intentionally walked Harper three times in the third game and once more in the finale (not to cheap jerseys mention another nine walks in the same series that may or may not have been unintentional). As if that wasn’t enough, in each of his next two games against the Tigers, Harper received an IBB. All that getting pitched around seemed to take its toll on Harper, as the otherworldly patience that was part of his historic 2015 MVP season (and the beginning of 2016) disappeared, and he became a shadow of his old self. Granted, three intentional walks in three games isn’t the same as what Joe Maddon did last year, but still — given the history, you could hardly blame Harper if these last few games started messing with his head. So far, though, the preponderance of free passes doesn’t seem to be fazing him.

National League home run leader Bryce Harper is among four starters out of the lineup for the Washington Nationals in their series finale against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

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Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters also did not start for the Nationals, who open a nine-game, 10-day road trip Monday afternoon in San Francisco.

Murphy missed the previous two games due to illness, Chris Speier said Saturday. Speier, serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren’s high school graduation in California, did not meet with the media before Sunday’s game.

More than anything, last season’s success can be attributed to patience. It followed three years of injuries and uninspiring production that birthed a new theme: He was overhyped and overrated, all before he turned 22. But last year he quieted the noise and looked inward. On April 24, he stopped taking batting practice on the field, removing the temptation to acquire bad habits while impressing fans. “You don’t want to be a 5 o’clock guy,” he says. “You want to be a 7:05 guy.” Former manager Matt Williams would tell him, “Most great hitters can figure on getting one pitch an at-bat, and they can’t miss it. You’re going to get half a pitch.” Still, there were times during Harper’s 124-walk season when Williams would chide Harper by asking, “Are you going to swing the bat today?” Thirty-two times in big league history a player has scored four runs in a game with zero hits. Harper did it twice in a three-week period.