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Harper nearly cycles, plates six04/22/2011 11:25 PM ET
By Danny Wild / MLB.com
If there were any questions about Bryce Harper's health, they were answered before some fans took their seats Friday at Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium.
One night after colliding hard with the outfield wall, Harper enjoyed the best game of his brief career, knocking in six runs and falling a triple shy of the cycle in the Hagerstown Suns' 17-1 blowout of the Hickory Crawdads.
Harper also homered Thursday, then sat out the second game of a doubleheader after his collision with the fence. Back in the lineup for the fourth of a five-game series, he went 3-for-3 with a two-run double in the second inning, a two-run single in the third and a two-run homer in the fourth. He took a seat in the sixth with the Suns leading, 17-0.
It was easily the best performance of the outfielder's 15-game career. "I thought it was my best game, but I have still a long way to go," he said. "I can't sit on this game, I have to keep going."
Suns manager Brian Daubach held the Nationals top prospect out of Thursday's nightcap after he crashed into the right-center field wall and remained down for several minutes.
"We kept him out of the second game as a precaution and we'll get him checked out again tomorrow," Daubach told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail after the doubleheader.
Harper was feeling good enough on Friday.
"I hit the wall pretty solid, but I got up and iced it today," he said. "And I was ready to go tonight."
The Las Vegas native, MLB.com's No. 3 prospect entering the season, raised his average 45 points to .306 with his perfect night at the plate.
Harper walked in the first and scored on Wade Moore's two-run double to left. Hickory starter Carlos Melo got into more trouble in the second when he issued a leadoff walk to Michael Taylor, who stole second and third. After Melo walked Adrian Sanchez, the Crawdads brought in Braden Tullis to face Harper, who promptly laced a two-run double to center and stole third.
Tullis went on to throw three wild pitches in the frame, which ended when Taylor was caught stealing.
The Suns had a 9-0 lead but were far from done. Tullis walked Randolph Oduber to open the third and surrendered a single to Adrian Sanchez, setting up Harper's two-run single up the middle.
Andres Perez-Lobo served up a two-run shot to Harper in the fourth after Sanchez reached on throwing error.
"I tried to wait until they got into the [strike] zone. I tried to wait on my pitch," Harper said. "I talked to the other guys about the pitchers to see what they were throwing. It's good to talk to the other players to get an idea of what to look for."
Harper walked in the fifth and was replaced defensively in the sixth.
The 18-year-old, who signed to a $9.9 million contract after the Nationals selected him No. 1 overall in the 2010 Draft, hit his first Minor League homer on April 13. Harper struck out 12 times and had only two extra-base hits in his first 12 games, but he's 6-for-10 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in his last three contests to get his average up to .306.