As strong as Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was last night in throwing a complete game, one-hit, shutout, it could have been all for naught if 20-year-old Nats' slugger Bryce Harper hadn't connected for a one-out triple in the fourth that set Jayson Werth up with an RBI opp Werth cashed in for the only run of the game scored by either team. 26-year-old Cincinnati Reds' right-hander Homer Bailey allowed just the one run on five hits in eight innings of work in which he struck out six and threw 89 pitches, 64 for strikes. Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said Zimmermann's start was "phenomenal," but he was equally impressed with the opposing pitcher's outing.
"[Bailey] pitched great too," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said, "You've got to tip your hat to him. He was impressive. He used all his pitches. He had a cutter. He had a split. Pretty good slider and an outstanding fastball and pretty good command in and out. He was impressive, again. That's the second good game he's pitched against us." The first was back on April 5th in the Reds' '04 1st Round pick's first start of the year which saw him hold the Nationals scoreless over six inning on the mound in which he allowed just two hits and three walks while striking out six.
Luckily for Jordan Zimmermann, a phenom made his phenomenal start hold up. [ed. note - "Ugh, did you really just write that?"] Harper grounded weakly to Reds' first baseman Joey Votto on a 1-0 change in his first at bat of the night vs Bailey. After Steve Lombardozzi grounded out to second in the top of the fourth, Harper stepped in for the second time, took a curve for a called strike, missed a bunt attempt as he tried to catch the left side of Cincinnati's infield off guard, then spit on three straight pitches outside the zone to work the count full. Bailey came back with the changeup that got Harper out the first time around but the Nats' three-hole hitter was waiting on it and smacked a line drive to right field that Jay Bruce had to chase down in the corner.
Harper was thinking triple of the box. He ran out from under his helmet approaching second and shifted gears as he rounded the bag, sliding in safely ahead of the relayed throw and hooking third base with his left arm to stop his slide before slapping Trent Jewett's extended hand, dusting himself off and catching his breath.
Davey Johnson said the pitch Harper hit was a splitter instead of a change as MLB.com's Gameday identified it. Either way, the Nats' manager was excited to talk about Harper's AB when he was asked about it after the game. "I mean, he hit a 3-2 split which was down and in," Johnson said, "I mean, I don't even know how he got the bat on it. It was a heck of an at bat and then he stretched it into three and Jayson got a hit to drive him in."
It was Harper's only hit of the night, as he grounded back to the mound with Denard Span on third and got the runner thrown out at home the next time up in his final at bat of the game. The 1 for 3 night left the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick with a gaudy .363/.440/.750 line, (1.190 OPS?), five doubles, a triple and eight home runs after 22 games and 91 plate appearances this season and the triple and run scored (his 15th) provided all the support Jordan Zimmermann needed on a night when the Reds couldn't do anything against the determined Nats' starter.
• Check out Harper's first triple of the year HERE.