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Washington Nationals 2-1 over St. Louis Cardinals on home runs by Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa

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Bryce Harper hit his first home run since May 13th off the facade of the upper deck in right and Danny Espinosa visited the second deck out there with a solo blast of his own for the only two runs the Washington Nationals needed to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington took three straight from St. Louis during the Nationals' Midwest road trip in late April/early May, leaving them 11-18 in the Cardinals' home since 2012 and 10-26 overall in one Busch Stadium or another since 2005.

At home in the nation's capital, however, the Nationals were 20-17 against the Cardinals since relocating to D.C. in '05, and 14-14 in Nationals Park since 2008 heading into tonight's series opener.

Joe Ross was on the mound for the Nationals against Cards' starter Mike Leake, who was looking for his first win over the Nats' since 2011.

Aledmys Diaz started the scoring in the fourth with a solo shot to left on a hanging 0-1 slider up in the zone from Ross that ended up in the left field bullpen, 1-0.

Leake tossed five scoreless on 66 pitches, holding the Nationals to just three hits, but the fourth hit he surrendered came on another hanging curve that went out to right for a bomb of a home run by Bryce Harper.

Harper hit his 12th of the year and his first since May 13th in Miami off the facade of the upper deck in the Nats' home to tie it up at 1-1.

Ross gave up back-to-back singles in the seventh, after Harper's blast tied it up, but a swinging K from Yadier Molina and a 4-6-3 DP Kolten Wong got him out of trouble and kept it a 1-1 after six and a half.

Joe Ross' Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 110 P, 74 S, 8/2 GO/FO.

With one down in the Nationals' half of the seventh, Danny Espinosa got hold of a first-pitch change and put a charge in it, hitting his fourth of the season into the second deck in right to make it 2-1 Nationals. Espinosa's fourth.

Felipe Rivero worked around an error in a scoreless, 17-pitch eighth inning. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth, looking for save No. 13 of 2016 and retired the side in order to end it. Ballgame. And a quick one.

Nationals now 29-19

NATS NOTES:

  • Washington has a +51 run differential this season heading into the four-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals, good for second in the majors behind only the Cards' NL Central rivals from Chicago (+119). The Cardinals were 5th in the majors before tonight at +41.
  • In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitary End Points" segment: Nats' third baseman Anthony Rendon is 18 for 53 (.340 AVG) with five doubles, a triple, one home runs and 11 walks... in 15 games dating back to May 10th.
  • Nationals' first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is 9 for 33 (.273 AVG) with a double, three home runs, four walks and six runs scored in his last ten games.
  • Washington's relievers have put up a 0.89 ERA over the last 16 games, and have not allowed any of the 22 inherited runner to score over that stretch.
  • The Nationals have committed just 18 errors this season, tied with the New York Mets for the fewest in the majors, their .990 fld% as a team is also MLB's best and they are ranked third in "Defensive Efficiency" (.719) which Baseball Prospectus defines as "the rate at which balls put into play are converted into outs", behind only the Chicago Cubs (.750) and Los Angeles Dodgers (.735).
  • The Cardinals lead the majors with 42 errors.
  • The 2016 Cards have scored 34 ninth innings runs this year, seven shy of the 41 they scored overall in the ninth last season.
  • Daniel Murphy got a day off today, but the Nationals' second baseman posted his 24th multi-hit game in 46 games played so far this season, and has hit in 22 of his last 26 games overall, with a .412 average over the last 26 (42 for 102).
  • Cards' pinch hitters have a major-league leading 28 hits so far this season, nine more than the second-place D-Backs. Their pinch hitters are 28 for 78 (.359 AVG).

Nationals now 29-19