Bryce Harper started his first game in over a month with a home run on the second pitch he saw from Milwaukee Brewers' right-hander Yovani Gallardo, a 93 mph 1-0 fastball... Before retaking the field tonight, Harper told reporters how happy he was to be back in the lineup after a long stretch on the DL and a quick rehab stint with Potomac and Harrisburg. "I'm excited to get going," the 20-year-old, 2010 no.1 overall pick said. "I'm excited to be back out there on the field and to be back on this club and really looking forward to tonight and just getting going again."
It didn't take long for Harper to get going again. He went 1 for 4 with the home run and a walk in his return to the three-hole in the Nats' lineup and the rest of the Nationals followed his lead and piled on after Harper gave Washington a 1-0 advantage early in tonight's game...
"I felt like I was back on Opening Day," @Bharper3407 on homering in his 1st AB— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 2, 2013
"Wouldn't you know it," Davey Johnson said after the game when asked about Harper's 13th home run. "We kind of expected something. It was something he was going to do... special."
Davey on Bryce: "We kinda expected something. He would do something special." Jayson Werth: "Typical Bryce. All about the drama."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) July 2, 2013
It wasn't just Harper tonight. Denard Span was 1 for 3 with two walks and three runs scored. Jayson Werth was 2 for 5 with 5 RBIs. Ryan Zimmerman was 2 for 4 with a double and Jordan Zimmermann was 3 for 3 at the plate as he earned his 12th win of the season on the mound. Davey Johnson was happy to have something close to his Opening Day lineup back on the field. The Nats' skipper went with Span; Werth; Harper; Zimmerman; Adam LaRoche; Ian Desmond; Anthony Rendon and Kurt Suzuki. Later this week, Wilson Ramos might be getting some at bats in that eighth spot when he too returns from the DL. Johnson said it actually took some convincing to get one of his hitters on board with the order he wanted.
"I had talked with Jayson Werth before," Johnson told reporters, "and he wasn't really keen on hitting second. I said, 'Well, you're only hitting second the first time up. You're going to have guys on base.' And he said, 'Yeah, with Rendon down at the other end I'll probably get more guys on base,' and sure enough, the first couple times he came up, he had a few people on and he delivered, so that was good."
It was actually the pitcher instead of Rendon who set the Nats' slugger up with runners on tonight, however. Werth doubled with two on in the third to drive in a run and another scored on an error on the play after Zimmermann had doubled and Span had walked to start the inning. Zimmermann and Span did it again in the fourth, with a single and double, respectively, in front of Werth, whose RBI single made it 8-0. Another run scored when Werth reached on an error with two runners on in the eighth.
"I talked to him about [how] if I rested Denard [Span] I'd lead him off," Johnson said. "We scored a lot of runs last year with him leading off. But with him hitting second it just creates more problems for the opposing manager."
The Nats' skipper hopes the hitting and winning are contagious.
"I think the guys know what we're capable of," Johnson said, "even [Chad] Tracy," who connected for a pinch hit double in the eighth that led to a run. "I think that was the first ball he's hit hard in a month. And it's kind of contagious. Everybody knows we've got some work to do and let's get down to business. Let's get serious... and quality at bats and we scored a bunch on a big time pitcher who's got good stuff."
As for the curtain call Harper took after the first inning home run, Johnson told reporters he didn't know if anyone pushed the young slugger out of the dugout. "I don't know who sent him out," Johnson said, "I was talking to Randy [Knorr] and watching the game. But, I'm sure somebody pushed him out. Zim backed out of the box... so. Good way to come back though."
Did you see the curtain call?:
• Nats Nightly = District Sports Page + Federal Baseball tonight w/ Doghouse: