Nationals

Quick Links

Harper hits D.C.

750082.png

Harper hits D.C.

Bryce Harper didn't think he'd be stepping onto the field at Nationals Park quite this soon. But he knew the day would be coming sometime soon, so he's had plenty of time to contemplate what it will be like.

"I'm really excited," he said. "Very, very excited. It's going to be a fun time."

Break out your fauxhawk wigs, your eye black and your No. 34 jerseys, because the fun starts tonight when Harper makes his D.C. debut as the Nationals open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.

Harper is expected to again be in manager Davey Johnson's lineup, starting in left field against Arizona right-hander Trevor Cahill. And if the first two games of the his career are an indication of things to come, don't be surprised if the 19-year-old is the center of attention again.

Harper's imprint was all over both weekend games at Dodger Stadium. His double, sacrifice fly and pinpoint throw to the plate helped put the Nationals in position to win Saturday night until reliever Henry Rodriguez blew the save in the ninth. And his wall-crashing catch on Sunday kept things close and allowed him to step to the plate in the ninth with a chance to tie the game.

Through it all, Harper maintained a level of composure befitting a player with far more big-league service time than two days. He again insisted he wasn't nervous to be thrown into the fire like that.

"No, not much," he said. "Like I said, I'm trying to stay as calm as I can when I go out there. We've got a great ballclub, great veteran guys that really help me out and just talk to me about the game and whatnot throughout the whole game. It's a lot of fun being out there. It's exciting for me."

Harper's performance and veteran approach left some at Dodger Stadium wondering if his first stint with the Nationals might actually extend longer than the club might have intended when it first promoted him.

In announcing the surprising move on Friday, general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged Harper might only stick around until Ryan Zimmerman returns from the disabled list (the third baseman is eligible to come back as soon as Sunday). Even if his fate isn't tied to Zimmerman's, Harper might not perform at a level consistent enough to merit his long-term stay in Washington ... yet.

"This may not be his breakout moment," Rizzo said. "Like Mike Trout with the Angels, there could be a step sideways to take a leap forward."

Trout, universally regarded as one of baseball's top two prospects along with Harper, made his debut for the Angels last summer at 19 but was sent back to Class AA after only three weeks and a .163 batting average. He returned to finish out the season but didn't break camp with Los Angeles this spring.

Despite the obvious comparisons between the two, Harper does find himself in a different situation. In this case, the Nationals desperately need offensive help, especially in left field where Michael Morse's replacements were hitting a combined .093 with four RBI before Harper arrived.

Though it's only been two games, Harper showed a more advanced approach at the plate than plenty of more experienced teammates have displayed this season.

Which might just mean we might just be seeing a lot more of Bryce Harper in Washington this summer.

Quick Links

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

usatsi_10908133.jpg
USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

Quick Links

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.