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Friday, June 8, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Nationals 7, Red Sox 4

By Gordon Edes




BOSTON -- And then there are those very rare, very special nights when even the hype machine fails to give its subjects their proper due.

That noted poet, Robert Valentine, came closer than most before Friday’s game. He was speaking of Stephen Strasburg, but he could just as easily have been speaking about Bryce Harper, the younger of the Washington Nationals' two prodigies.

“He is like looking at a rainbow,’’ Valentine said even before the Nats beat his Red Sox, 7-4. “You don't miss it; it is rather a beautiful sight.’’

If Strasburg (7-1) is the rainbow, then Harper is the Transit of Venus, a phenomenon visible to the eye, oh, once a century or so.

Friday night in Fenway Park, Strasburg, featuring a fastball that touched 100, a changeup that violated the laws of nature and a curveball bereft of compassion, struck out 13 Sox batters in six innings, including seven in a span of eight batters.

Strasburg is 23. No pitcher has whiffed 13 Sox hitters in Fenway Park since Mike Mussina K’d 13 on Sept. 2, 2001, the night that Carl Everett broke up a perfecto with two outs in the ninth.

No pitcher has whiffed more since Mussina K’d 15 on Sept. 4, 2000. Only seven pitchers since 1990 have K’d 13 or more Sox batters, with Roger Clemens also doing it twice.

“He gets that pitching thing very well,’’ Valentine said, resorting to more plain-spoken language.

And yet, Strasburg may have finished second in the category of wondrous feats to Harper, who Friday night at 19 years and 236 days old joined the most exclusive of company when he had three hits, including a home run to the right of the 420-foot triangle.

Here is a list of teenagers who have hit home runs at Fenway Park as visiting players: Robin Yount, Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline.

All three are Hall of Famers.

And here are the teenagers who have had three hits in a game at Fenway in the last 72 years:

Kaline, 18. And Ken Griffey Jr., 19.

Pretty special company.

Harper doubled and scored in the third, then connected for a two-run homer in the fourth off loser Felix Doubront (6-3) before singling in the fifth off Rich Hill. With a chance for the cycle, he grounded out in the ninth against Andrew Miller.