Bryce Harper’s first two-homer game paces Nats in victory

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Bryce Harper homered in the fourth and fifth innings to drive in three runs Wednesday in the Nationals’ 8-4 victory over the Marlins.

It was the first two-homer game for the 19-year-old Harper. He has 14 homers and 40 RBI in 412 at-bats this season.

Harper was ejected from the game after grounding into a double play in the ninth. He slammed his helmet down on his way past first base, and umpire C.B. Bucknor threw him out.

“Bryce couldn’t control his emotions again,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I had a little chat with him. He’ll get over it. He’s just a hundred-percenter. He expects great things out of himself, breaks bats, throws his helmet. He’s just got to stop it. We can’t afford to be losing him in a ballgame. He’ll learn. He’s young.”

Harper has struggled through July and August, and he entered tonight’s game with a .195 average in 159 at-bats since the All-Star break before breaking through against fellow youngster Jacob Turner. The 21-year-old Turner, making his second major league start after coming over from the Tigers before the trade deadline, allowed five runs in five innings to take a loss.

Even though Harper hasn’t been hitting and he’s been guilty of occasionally misjudging balls in center field, the Nationals have continued to play him regularly and hit him high in the lineup. He made it pay off tonight, but with the way his OBP has tumbled, it’d probably be better if he were batting seventh instead of second.

Anibal Sanchez accepts optional assignment to Triple-A

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The Tigers announced on Monday that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Warwick Saupold was recalled from Toledo to take Sanchez’s roster spot.

Sanchez, 33, continued to struggle this season pitching out of the bullpen. He gave up 26 runs (21 earned) on 34 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Nine of those 34 hits were home runs. Sanchez finished the 2015 season with a 4.99 ERA and last season with a 5.87 ERA, so he’s had a rough go of it in recent years.

The decision to go to Triple-A was Sanchez’s, Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports. Sanchez wants to be stretched out as a starting pitcher again.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.