Did Harper interfere on play at plate?


Did Harper interfere on play at plate?

There were very few plays of consequence during last night's 5-4 victory that didn't involve Bryce Harper in some fashion, right down to the 19-year-old ninth-inning double off the wall that set the stage for Ian Desmond's game-winning homer.

No less important, though, was Harper's aggressive baserunning play in the bottom of the fourth, when he scored from second on a Wilson Ramos grounder that ate up Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill.

Never letting up as he approached third, and watching coach Bo Porter give him the green light to make the turn, Harper hustled his way to a key run.

"I knew it was going to be close," he said. "On that kind of ball, you really got to bust you butt around the corner. I was reading Bo the whole time and I was going, so I was trying to make something happen at the plate and was going hard."

Oh, Harper most definitely went hard into the plate. After recovering to retrieve the ball, Hill fired home and had Harper beat by a couple of steps. But as Miguel Montero braced himself for impact, Harper slid into him with both arms raised, ultimately knocking the ball out of the catcher's mitt.

It instantly brought to mind the controversial play from Harper's debut Saturday night in Los Angeles, when he appeared to throw out Jerry Hairston from left field, only to watch as Hairston dislodged the ball from Ramos' mitt.

The Nationals were furious about that play, insisting Hairston went out of his way to swat at Ramos' glove (and later at the ball after it popped out).

This time, it was the Diamondbacks complaining about Harper making a somewhat similar move.

"I thought he went after my hands, my glove," Montero said. "If you watch the replay, clearly you see that. The umpire said he didn't see it, but whatever. That's a tough play. If he comes to me try to hit me and all that, it's part of the game. But if he did that on purpose, that's kind of a crappy play."

So, did Harper purposely try to swat at the ball? It's tough to say based on the replays. He clearly raised both arms, but it could be argued he was doing that simply to brace for impact. There was, however, some downward movement of his hands, intentional or unintentional.

Harper wasn't entirely sure what happened. In fact, he he didn't even realize umpire Bill Welke had called him safe, so he hopped back to his feet and returned to touch the plate just in case.

"I had no clue," the rookie outfielder said. "I was just in the moment. So I tried to go back and touch it just to make sure so we could get a run up on that board."

The run indeed counted, and Harper added yet another memorable moment to an ever-growing list only four games into his career.

Nationals pitcher Jordan undergoes second Tommy John surgery


Nationals pitcher Jordan undergoes second Tommy John surgery

Nationals minor league pitcher Taylor Jordan, a veteran of three MLB seasons, underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. It was the second time Jordan has had the procedure.

The 27-year-old went under the knife after making three starts for Triple-A Syracuse this season. He held a 1.72 ERA across 15 2/3 total innings.

Jordan also had the surgery back in 2011 and made a full recovery to debut with the Nationals in 2013. In 18 total MLB games he has a 4.48 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings. Last season Jordan gave up 10 earned runs in four appearances in the big leagues.

The Nationals took Jordan in the ninth round of the 2009 draft out of high school. Dr. James Andrews performed his Tommy John surgery. The rehab process is generally 12 to 18 months.

What Dusty Baker likes and doesn't like about the 2016 Nats so far


What Dusty Baker likes and doesn't like about the 2016 Nats so far

Ten games over .500 and in first place in the NL East, there's not a lot for the Nationals to complain about at the moment. They are charging foward with one of the league's best records and their pitching staff has been particularly impressive.

Manager Dusty Baker likes where the Nats currently stand and this week highlighted two areas he feels extra good about as the Nationals continue their homestand against the Cardinals.

"Probably our defense," Baker said to start. "The fact that we don't usually give away outs and beat ourselves. You don't have to make the spectacular, but you have to concentrate enough to make the everyday regular play and then hope you do make a couple spectaculars along the way. Most teams that lose are teams that play poor defense." 

"And secondly, how this team is very resilient and unaffected by tough losses or even consecutive losses," he continued. "Because after the game, you could hear a church mouse run across the floor in the clubhouse. Then the next day you wouldn't know anything every happened. That's a sign of some pros."

As far as their defense goes, the Nationals rank favorably in Major League Baseball in several categories. They have made just 19 errors, the second-fewest of any team. Their .989 fielding percentage as a team is third. They are also third in the NL in defensive efficiency at .719. 

"It's a special group. We've got a lot of guys with Gold Glove-caliber abilities," first baseman Clint Robinson said. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy leads the team in errors with five, but he's only on pace to make about 17 of them this season. That number wouldn't rank anywhere near the top of the league in most years.

The Nationals have the second-best team ERA at 2.82 and the second-best rotation ERA at 2.96. They would like to be higher than 13th in runs scored, but that still puts them in the top half of the league. 

The Nationals are at the very least above average pretty much across the board, but Baker and his players still see room for improvement. 

"We're in first place but we're kind of treading water. We haven't caught our stride yet," Baker said. "To have that 'put your foot on their throat' attitude when we get the lead, I'm hoping that we get more of that here. I have a pretty nice team. I'd like to see them be a little meaner."

"There's still a lot of guys that are still finding their stroke right now," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "Our pitching staff has done a good job and defensively we've done good. We have guys on base. We're getting guys on base, we're just not hitting quite the way we can be hitting. We know that."

"There's always room for improvement. It's a tough league," Robinson said. "The division has turned out to be a lot tougher than I think a lot of people expected. Once we get our lineup firing, I think that's when you'll see a lot of special things."

Baker has referred all year to the idea of a killer instinct and how the Nationals could use more 'dog' in them. 

"I'm gonna give them some gunpowder," he joked on Friday.

Scherzer takes on Cardinals as Nats aim to stay perfect vs. St Louis


Scherzer takes on Cardinals as Nats aim to stay perfect vs. St Louis

Nats (29-19) vs. Carinals (24-24) at Nationals Park

The Nationals continue their series against St. Louis aiming to go a perfect 5-0 against the Cardinals on the season. On Thursday night it was Joe Ross who held them in check. On Friday, it will be Max Scherzer (5-3, 3.80) looking to shut them down.

Scherzer is coming off an eight-inning, two-run outing against the Marlins on May 22. He has allowed two earned runs in each of his last three outings. Scherzer pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals back on May 1.

Behind Scherzer will be the usual lineup with Daniel Murphy back in there after taking Thursday off.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Max Scherzer vs. Cardinals - Jaime Garcia


CF Ben Revere
LF Jayson Werth
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Max Scherzer


LHP Jaime Garcia

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