Washington Nationals Rewind - Davey Johnson On Bryce Harper: "I'll Take Him Whenever He's Ready."

USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals fell back to .500 with a loss in the finale of their three-game set with the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin put on a pitching display, and after two two-run home runs, it was a bunt that decided the game.

Both starting pitchers rolled through the first three innings in the nation's capital tonight, with Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg and Arizona Diamondbacks' lefty Patrick Corbin trading scoreless frames. In the fourth inning, however, the D-Backs' starter issued a two-out walk to Adam LaRoche and surrendered a two-run home run by Ian Desmond in the next at bat. Desmond fell behind in the count 0-2, took two sliders to even things up, then crushed the fourth-straight slider from Corbin, which was up in the zone and inside. Desmond 13th home run was a no-doubter to left that put the Nats up 2-0 in the series finale of the three-game weekend set.

It was still 2-2 in the sixth when Corbin helped his own cause, lining an opposite field single to left to start the inning and scoring when Aaron Hill yanked a 1-0 fastball from Strasburg for a two-run home run to left field that tied things up at 2-2 after five and a half. Strasburg pitched his way out of trouble in the top of the sixth, but the 22-pitch inning had him up to 102 overall. Corbin threw 25 pitches in the bottom of the sixth to get him to 88. Davey Johnson sent Strasburg out for another inning which ended up being an 11-pitch 1-2-3 seventh which left the Nats' 24-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick at 113 pitches.


Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 113 P, 76 S, 8/7 GO/FO.

"[Strasburg] pitched a good ballgame, just made a kind of nothing pitch to the second baseman [Aaron Hill], but he kept us in there." - Davey Johnson on Strasburg allowing a two-run home run

After Drew Storen struck out the side in a 15-pitch top of the eighth, Brad Ziegler replaced Patrick Corbin on the mound, ending the D-Backs' lefty's start after 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 111 pitches, 76 strikes and 11 ground ball outs. Jayson Werth singled with two down, but Adam LaRoche's groundout to second left it tied at 2-2 after eight.

Ian Krol threw a scoreless top of the ninth for the Nationals. And right-hander David Hernandez did the same for the Diamondbacks. After Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless top of the tenth, Josh Collmenter came on for Arizona and gave up a one-out single by Denard Span before retiring Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman.

Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen took over on the mound in the eleventh and gave up a leadoff ground rule double by Miguel Montero. A.J. Pollock ran for the D-Backs' catcher, took third on a sac bunt and scored from third, after a walk put runners on the corners, when Didi Gregorius put a perfect bunt down.

"Here's a guy that runs real good," Davey Johnson said of the bunt single that brought in the winning run, "He puts the ball in play, we're playing halfway, I mean, that was a blueprint. You can't lay it out there any better than he did. It's just one of those things. It was that kind of ballgame. A couple home runs and then a safety squeeze beats us."

The Nationals' 70-year-old skipper was happy with the start he got from Stephen Strasburg. "He pitched a good ballgame, just made a kind of nothing pitch to the second baseman [Aaron Hill], but he kept us in there. I liked the way the other guy was throwing. I mean, we were chasing balls, curve balls, he threw the curve ball off the plate in and we were just... you know, we had no chance. He kind of hung one to [Ian Desmond], but we've just got to get off the schneid offensively."

Washington went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and the Nationals stranded eight batters. "[Corbin] pitched a heck of a ballgame," Johnson said, "Looked like he ran out of gas toward the end, but we didn't get nothing going on him." The Nats' best chance to add to the two runs Desmond drove in off the D-Backs' still-undefeated 23-year-old left-hander came in the bottom of the seventh. Chris Marrero hit a pinch hit single and was replaced at first by Jeff Kobernus, who stole second. Denard Span worked the count full and ripped a 3-2 fastball toward the first base line where Paul Goldschmidt made a great play.

"Eight hits, two runs in eleven innings? Pitching did okay, but just, we've just been kind of sputtering in scoring runs." - Davey Johnson on Nats' offense

"Span pulled a couple balls early in the at bat," Johnson said, breaking down the opportunity, "then Kobernus stole second and [Paul Goldschmidt] came over and guarded the line more. Normally, he's way off the line. That was an outstanding play. An outstanding read. I guess he just felt [Corbin] was going to pitch [Span] in, and if he did get the bat out it was going to be down the line."

The Nationals got three hits off the Diamondbacks' bullpen, but couldn't get another run home. "We just need to get a little something going," Johnson said after the loss left them back at .500 at 39-39 overall. "Eight hits, two runs in eleven innings? Pitching did okay, but just, we've just been kind of sputtering in scoring runs."

"I'll take him whenever he's ready. I think we just need to talk to him and see how he's feeling." - Davey Johnson on Bryce Harper's impending return

"I like our defense," he continued, "We've been playing good defense. The pitching has been good, I mean, we got too many good hitters in the lineup, they're just not..." Johnson trailed off.

Could Bryce Harper return to spark things? "I didn't get a report on him tonight, did you guys get a report on him?" Johnson asked. Harper was 2 for 4 with a walk, single and two-run triple. "I guess it wasn't bothering him too much from the other night," Johnson said, referring to Harper's knee.

"I'll take him whenever he's ready," Johnson said, "I think we just need to talk to him and see how he's feeling."

"But tomorrow was going to be off and then he was going to go back to playing," Johnson concluded, "so we just have to wait and see."

• AUDIO: FBB + District Sports Page = Nats Nightly:

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