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Nationals drop 5-3 decision to Rays: Bryce Harper leaves game with left leg injury

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The Washington Nationals blew a 3-1 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and in the process of giving up the go-ahead runs lost Bryce Harper to an injury, the extent of which is not yet known. Harper injured the leg trying to throw out a runner at home in the 6th.

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Rob Carr/Getty Images

• [ed. note - "For the quick take on what happened to Bryce Harper CLICK HERE."]

For the rest of the game, keep reading below...

More info on Bryce Harper's apparent injury after the game...

5. Fister's return: Doug Fister landed on the DL on May 15th with right forearm tightness related to a flexor tendon issue after seven starts in which the 31-year-old right-hander was (2-2) with a 4.31 ERA, a 4.67 FIP, 10 walks (2.27 BB/9) and 18 Ks (4.08 K/9) in 39 ⅔ innings pitched.

Fister returned to the mound for two rehab starts in the Nationals' system earlier this month in which he gave up nine hits, two runs, one earned and recorded 10 Ks in 9 ⅔ IP.

Nationals' skipper Matt Williams talked in an MLB Network Radio interview this morning about what he expects from Fister in the sinker-balling starter's return to the majors tonight.

"Depending on stressful innings and things like that, we'll try to take care of him as much as possible in that regard, but he's not on a pitch count per se..." -Matt Williams on Doug Fister's return to the rotation

"The game will dictate it a little bit," Williams said, "but we can't push him too far because he's just coming back.

"There have been no issues with his health. His forearm feels good and through all of the bullpens and flat grounds and simulated games and actual rehab games he's getting better and better and better. So we have to be cognizant of that, watch him closely, but as long as he feels good then he's ready to get out there and resume his normal activity too. So it's nice to have him back."

Fister threw a total of 70 pitches on the mound this past Friday night in Harrisburg, PA's Metro Bank Park in his second rehab start, completing six scoreless for the Nationals' Double-A affiliate.

In his return to the majors tonight, Fister gave up a leadoff single on a line drive to center field off Kevin Kiermaier, but erased the first runner with a 6-4-3 from Joey Butler in the net at bat and threw a 3-2 change by Evan Longoria for out no.3 of a 14-pitch first.

Steven Souza singled with one down in the Rays' second, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a grounder through the right side on a 1-1 changeup. Both runners were in motion when Jake Elmore took a 3-2 changeup through the left side for an RBI single that cut the Nationals' lead in half. 2-1. 30-pitch second, 44 total for Fister after two.

Given a 3-1 lead to work with, Fister retired the Rays in order in a quick, six-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 50 pitches total after three.

Logan Forsythe doubled on a grounder to left, right over third, in the first at bat of the fourth, and Steven Souza reached safely on a throwing error by Yunel Escobar in the next at bat.

Forsythe took third on the E:5, but Souza was caught stealing one out later, and Jake Elmore sent a pop to second to end a 12-pitch second. 62 total after first after four.

Fister made quick work of the Rays' 8-9-1 hitters in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that left him at 74 pitches.

Joey Butler got hold of a first-pitch cutter in the top of the sixth, and hit a towering fly to right that cleared the wall. 3-2 Nationals after Butler's fifth. Evan Longoria singled to center in the next at bat, and took second on a grounder to short by Logan Forsythe that got by Ian Desmond. Desmond made a backhand stab and cut the lead runner down at third on a grounder to short by Steven Souza in the next at bat, but the tying run scored on a single to right by Rays' shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera when Bryce Harper slipped as he went to throw it in and airmailed it. Two runs scored on the E, 4-3 Rays. Harper limped off after the play with an apparent injury. No word until after the game just how bad it is... That was it for Fister...

• Doug Fister's Line: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 87 P, 58 S, 6/1 GO/FO.

4. Archer, Chris Archer: After back-to-back losses started the month of May, Rays' right-hander Chris Archer was on a seven-start unbeaten streak heading into tonight's finale of the four-game, two-city series with the Washington Nationals.

Over that stretch, the 26-year-old, four-year veteran was (4-0) with Tampa Bay 6-1 in his outings, in which he put up a 1.49 ERA, seven walks (1.30 BB/9) and 63 Ks (11.73 K/9) in 48 ⅓ IP, holding opposing hitters to a combined .206/.236/257 line.

"He's in the strike zone, he's aggressive in the strike zone. He's got quality pitches. He throws the ball in the mid-90s. Turns it up when he needs to. Reminds me of Max [Scherzer]..." -Matt Williams on Chris Archer before tonight's game

On the year, Archer entered tonight's start (7-4) after 14 starts with a 2.00 ERA, a 2.08 FIP, 21 walks (2.10 BB/9) and 113 Ks (11.30 K/9) in 90 IP, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .196/.249/.267 line.

He's been piling up Ks along the way as well, but especially recently, with 43 (19.35 K/9) in his last four starts and 20 IP.

On the road, Archer has been lights out, going (5-0) in five starts with a 0.51 ERA (2 ER in 35 IP) that was the lowest in the majors.

Armed with a four-seam fastball that's averaged 94.5 mph so far this season, a slider (86.1), two-seamer (95.3) and change (85.3), Archer took the mound tonight in the nation's capital to face the Nationals for the second time in his career and the first time since 2012, when he gave up three hits and three runs, one earned in six innings of work on the mound in a loss in Nats Park.

Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked before today's game about what he finds impressive about the Rays' starter.

"Mentality is great," Williams said. "He's in the strike zone, he's aggressive in the strike zone. He's got quality pitches. He throws the ball in the mid-90s. Turns it up when he needs to. Reminds me of Max [Scherzer] in that regard, when he needs to reach back for one he can. But he throws strikes and he's going to challenge our guys, so hopefully tonight we're ready for it and we're able to get some good pitches to hit and take care of it."

Archer's second career start vs the Nationals began with a leadoff walk to Denard Span, but he appeared to erase the lead runner on a strike'em out, throw'em out double play in the next at bat, getting Anthony Rendon swinging with a 2-2 slider and Span trying to steal second. The caught stealing was over-turned, however, so Span remained at second and took third on an opposite field single to right by Yunel Escobar, before on an RBI single by Bryce Harper, who hit a one-hop grounder off Archer's left foot. 1-0 Nats. Wilson Ramos took the second walk of the game on Archer's 27th pitch of the first, loading the bases for Danny Espinosa with one out. Danny Espinosa grounded into a force at second, but weakly enough to avoid a double play. 2-0. 31-pitch frame for Archer.

Michael Taylor beat out a bunt for a leadoff single in the first at bat of the Nats' second, took second on a sac bunt by Doug Fister and moved up to third on a one-out single to left by Denard Span, before scoring on a two-out RBI single to right by Yunel Escobar, 3-1. Denard Span tried to make it around on Escobar's hit too, but was thrown out at home for out no.3 of a 22-pitch second by Archer. 53 total after two.

Danny Espinosa lined a two-out single to center in the Nationals' third, but a weak grounder to third by Ian Desmond ended an 11-pitch frame. 64 total for Archer after three.

Doug Fister singled with one down in the second, but was stranded two outs later and the end of an eight-pitch fourth that left Archer at 72 total.

Yunel Escobar doubled on a line drive to left in the first at bat of the Nats' half of the fifth and took third one out later on a groundout by Wilson Ramos, but he was stranded there at the end of a 17-pitch inning by Archer, who was up to 89 pitches total after five.

Chris Archer's Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 87 P, 58 S, 9/0 GO/FO.

3. Game Notes: As Tampa Bay mentioned in tonight's pregame notes, the Rays last night became the first AL team since 1914 (which is as far as Baseball-reference.com's data goes back) to allow 23+ hits in one game and two or fewer the next game, and just the second team in the majors to do that, with the St. Louis Cardinals giving up 23 hits one night and two the next night on May 17-18, 1975.

• Rays' right-hander Chris Archer made his MLB debut against the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg back in 2012.

• With last night's win, the Rays improved to 12-12 vs the Nationals franchise overall and 7-5 against the Nationals since 2005.

Denard Span's leadoff walk in the first was his fourth in 45 games this season, but he was caught stealing as part of a strike'em out, throw'em out DP in the next AB. That was the first time Span was caught stealing this season... check that, it was reversed upon review, I'm just too lazy to delete the second part. 7 for 7 in SB attempts.

• Rays' starter Chris Archer entered tonight's game with a 0.51 ERA on the road this season, (2 ER in 35 IP), then gave up two in the first.

2. Turning Point(s): Denard Span appeared to be caught stealing at second after a leadoff walk in the first at bat of tonight's game, but a review of the play overturned the call, leaving Span 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts this season and two hits later he came around to score on a Bryce Harper single that made it 1-0 Nationals early. Another run scored on a groundout by Danny Espinosa, giving the Nats a 2-0 lead after one.

• The Rays strung together three straight one-out singles in the second, scoring a run on a Jake Elmore grounder through the left side to cut the Nationals lead in half.

Michael Taylor gave the Nationals back their two-run lead in the bottom of the second, bunting his way on and then scoring on a two-out single to right by Yunel Escobar to make it 3-1, but Denard Span got thrown out at home trying to score on Escobar's hit. Would the Nats regret giving that out away?

• Yes they would. Joey Butler hit a solo home run to start the top of the sixth, and three singles with a throwing error by Bryce Harper on the third allowed two more to score as the Rays took a 4-3 lead and went up 5-3 after five and a half on an RBI triple by David DeJesus. And Bryce Harper was injured on the play.

1. The Wrap-Up: Blake Treinen took over for Doug Fister with one out in the sixth and a runner on third and gave up an RBI triple to center field that made it 5-3 Rays after five and a half.

Brandon Gomes took the mound for the Rays in the bottom of the sixth and retired the Nationals in order.

David Carpenter threw a scoreless top of the seventh inning.

Kevin Jepsen came on for the Rays in the bottom of the seventh and gave up a leadoff single by Denard Span, but Anthony Rendon grounded into a 1-6-3 DP in the next AB. Yunel Escobar singled with two down and Clint Robinson walked, but both runners were stranded when Wilson Ramos grounded out to end the seventh.

Casey Janssen came out to work the top of the eighth and completed a scoreless frame.

Rays' lefty Jake McGee gave up a leadoff double to left by Danny Espinosa, but got back-to-back backwards Ks from Ian Desmond and Michael Taylor and a hard-hit lineup to center by Tyler Moore to keep it 5-3 after eight.

Felipe Rivero gave up a leadoff double to center by Nick Franklin, but stranded the runner three outs later.

Brad Boxberger came on for the save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth and retired the first two batters he faced before Yunel Escobar connected for his fifth hit, a single to center that kept hope alive. Clint Robinson stepped in as the potential tying run and...grounded out to first. Ballgame. 5-3 Rays.

Nationals now 34-33