SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- With his team chasing the Chicago Cubs for the best record in baseball, Washington manager Dusty Baker is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the Nationals close -- even if it means pulling closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning.
While it might not be the move he cherishes, it's one Baker may make even more down the stretch as Papelbon struggles through one of his roughest stretches of the season.
Ryan Zimmerman had two hits and scored a run, Trea Turner added two hits and an RBI and the Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 4-2 on Thursday night in the opener of a key four-game series between division leaders.
Papelbon went into the game with 19 saves and retired one batter in the ninth before getting pulled in favor of Shawn Kelley after giving up a single and walk.
"I'm sure he felt badly but I had to do what I had to do to win the ballgame," Baker said of his closer. "I'm sure that Pap didn't like it but I'm sure that he understands."
Papelbon has struggled over the past week. He took the loss Sunday against San Diego and again on Tuesday in Cleveland before being unable to close out the win in San Francisco.
"The object is to win the game," Papelbon said. "Do what you can do to win the game."
[RELATED: Roark and Turner lead the way as Nats top Giants]
SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES
Despite Mark Lerner's comments to NBC Sports Washington that the team hasn't been in recent contact with Bryce Harper and has filled out the roster, SNY's Andy Martino says not to give up hope.
"Do not believe that the Nationals are out on Harper," Martino said. "People I talk to around the situation are saying don't rule the Nationals out until the moment that Harper signs elsewhere."
Martino believes that the clearest options may not be what they seem.
"The Phillies of course are pursuing him, but I continue to hear they have a tough road to get Harper to come to Philly," he said. "The Phillies are possible but I don’t know that I would call them frontrunners."
After the news of Manny Machado signing with the Padres, all eyes turn to Bryce Harper and how long this continues to drag out.
The clock is ticking.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
When Nationals principal managing owner Mark Lerner see his team lose, he has a postgame ritual that rivals one of the most ordinary passionate fan.
“ I go into a closet and scream a little after,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas in an exclusive interview in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Friday. “No, no. That’s one thing that’s good about baseball. You’re going to play the next day. But I go home. I’m totally depressed. I won’t turn on the sports news or anything and get up the next morning, it’s a new day, get up and go after it again today. When I’m sitting down there, I’m very passionate as a fan. I’m yelling at the umpires like everybody else. I want to win. I hate losing exhibition games let alone regular-season games.”
Lerner also spoke about Bryce Harper's future - or lack thereof - with the team, Anthony Rendon and what he expects from the team this season.
The interview is now available in full on the MyTeams app, which can be downloaded here.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: