Instant Analysis: Nats 8, Padres 5

Instant Analysis: Nats 8, Padres 5
May 15, 2012, 2:19 am
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Game in a nutshell: Bryce Harper's first career homer set the early tone for the night, but the Nationals were forced to rally after starter Ross Detwiler gave up five runs. Perhaps negatively affected by the loss of rookie catcher Sandy Leon to a scary-looking ankle injury, Detwiler put his teammates in a 5-4 hole. No problem, because Ian Desmond responded with a two-run double in the sixth, and Chad Tracy and Xavier Nady added solo homers in the ninth to provide some cushion for Henry Rodriguez. And the beleaguered closer needed it, because he walked the bases loaded with one out, forcing Davey Johnson to summon Sean Burnett to bail him out. Which Burnett did by inducing a game-ending, 1-2-3 double play.

Hitting highlight: It was bound to happen eventually, and it didn't disappoint when it did finally happen. With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the third, Harper crushed a 2-1 breaking ball from Tim Stauffer over the center-field fence and well up the grass batter's eye for his first career home run. The 19-year-old became the youngest major leaguer to homer since Adrian Beltre in 1998 and got a curtain call from the announced crowd of 19,434.

Pitching highlight: After Detwiler labored through five innings, Johnson was forced to turn to his bullpen earlier than usual. No problem, because Craig Stammen came to the rescue yet again. The right-hander tossed two scoreless innings, striking out three in the process, to bridge the gap from Detwiler to setup man Tyler Clippard. Stammen now boasts a 1.29 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 21 innings out of the bullpen this season.
Key stat: This was only the fourth time in 35 games this season in which the Nationals' starting pitcher gave up more than three earned runs.

Up next: Stephen Strasburg finally gets a chance to face his hometown team when the Nationals host the Padres in the 1:05 p.m. finale of this very brief, two-game series. Right-hander Anthony Bass starts for San Diego.