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Harper Return Sparks Nationals Offense

Monday saw the welcome return of Bryce Harper - in style- to the Washington Nationals' lineup.

Monday saw the welcome return of Bryce Harper – in style- to the Washington Nationals’ lineup.

Not one to shy away from the limelight, Bryce Harper returned with a bang Monday night, homering in his first at bat to spark the Washington Nationals to a lopsided victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

20130701_NLEastAfter lighting-up the scoreboard in a 13-2 win over the New York Mets on Sunday, the Nationals added another 10 runs on Monday, thumping the struggling Brewers 10-5.

Harper’s first inning homer – his 13th of the year – was welcomed by a Washington faithful desperate for their team to find the form that made the club a preseason favorite in the National League. 23 runs in two games is exactly what was ordered by the nearly 25,000 on hand, all of whom called for Harper’s curtain call.

Harper was placed on the disabled list back on May 27; almost two weeks after violently colliding with the outfield wall in a 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The subsequent knee injury required surgery, which resulted in the 20-year-old missing 31 games.

The Nationals were 15-16 during Harper’s stint on the DL. Overall, the club is 16-21 without Harper this season, compared to 26-19 with him.

Jordan Zimmermann had success on the mound and at the plate in Monday's opener against the Brewers.

Jordan Zimmermann had success on the mound and at the plate in Monday’s opener against the Brewers.

But while Harper’s return was the big news, it wasn’t the only story coming out of this one. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.46 ERA) picked up his NL-leading 12th win of the season, tying Detroit’s Max Scherzer (12-0) for the most wins in the majors. The right-hander helped his own cause, going 3-for-3 at the plate and scoring a pair of runs.

Batting second, Jayson Werth added a season-best five RBIs, going 2-for-5 and reaching on an error. The Nationals as a team scored five in the fifth and then held on as the Brewers added five runs between the fifth and seventh.

The Nationals now sit six games back of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, 1 1/2 games worse off than when Harper went to the DL.

The series continues on Tuesday night with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET from Nationals Park.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Washington Nationals odds for 7/2/13 are available now.

Washington (42-40, 23-16 home) will send Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.41 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday.

Strasburg is 1-1 in three starts since returning from his own stint on the DL, a shutdown caused by a strained muscle in his back. During those three starts, the right-hander has yielded just four runs on 12 hits, striking out 17 in 19 innings pitched.

Wily Peralta (5-9, 5.58 ERA) will start for Milwaukee (32-49, 13-26 road). The 24-year-old has gone 3-8 in his last 12 starts, dating back to the beginning of May. He’s allowed 52 runs on 81 hits – an average of 4.3 runs and 6.8 hits – during that time. The right-hander is 0-1 in his career against the Nationals.

With 10 wins from their last 14 games, the Miami Marlins have had something to celebrate of late.

With 10 wins from their last 14 games, the Miami Marlins have had something to celebrate of late.

NL East Roundup

Having swept the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, Atlanta (48-34, 23-16 home) returns to action on Tuesday, welcoming divisional rivals, the Miami Marlins (30-51, 12-27 road).

The Marlins have been the laughing stock of the National League for much of the season but recent results have seen a shift in fortunes. The South Florida club is 10-4 in its last 14 games, a stint that includes a 3-1 series win on the road against the San Francisco Giants and a 3-1 series victory against the San Diego Padres, which culminated with a 4-0 shutout victory on Monday.

The Braves currently lead this season’s head-to-head series 3-0.

Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves odds for 7/2/13 are available now.

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Coming off a West Coast swing that saw the team compile a 3-4 record against the Padres and Dodgers, the Philadelphia Phillies (39-44, 20-26 road) face a tough series this week against the Major League-leading Pittsburgh Pirates (51-30, 28-13 home).

The Pirates won their 50 and 51st games of the season over the weekend, and will be heavy favorites heading into this three-game intra-state series. The Phillies will look to put the halters on the Pirates’ nine-game winning streak, edging back into the NL East race in the process.

Pittsburgh currently leads the season head-to-head 3-1.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates odds for 7/2/13 are available now.

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Miami isn’t the only team experiencing a mini-resurgence in the NL East. The New York Mets (34-45, 16-25 home) have gone 10-6 over the last 16. Whilst that’s not a record that will scare the record books, it’s a remarkable achievement for a team that was 24-39 before that streak.

After taking the series opener 5-4 in 13 innings, the Mets will again host Arizona (42-40, 21-24 road) at Citi Field on Tuesday. The Mets will need to put a dent in the undefeated record of Diamondbacks’ starter, Patrick Corbin (9-0, 2.22 ERA), if they’re to get anything out of this game.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Mets odds for 7/2/13 are available now.

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