To all you critics, let me say one thing. To this point, calling up Bryce Harper has been the smartest baseball move in the history of the major leagues.
Ok, perhaps it wasn’t, but if you watched tonight, you would agree that it’s certainly up there. But, we’ll get to him later.
Edwin Jackson got the nod this evening, and would be tasked with ending the club’s longest losing streak of the year. The Nats have dropped their last five. Jackson’s performance was a roller coaster of sorts, having it’s highs and it’s lows.
The first inning was one of the high points of the ride, as Jackson pitched a three-up, three-down inning, striking out Aaron Hill and Justin Upton. The next two innings would also be uneventful, highlighted by a 7-pitch third inning. The problems wouldn’t start until the fourth.
It began with Upton and no one on base, which proved to be a blessing, as he would take it deep and gone to bring the score even at 1.
After allowing runners to reach first and third with no out, Jackson managed to get out of the fourth inning allowing only one more run, largely due to (now we’re back to him) another highlight-reel play by Harper. But this time he was not in his Superman costume, as he was during that Game 3 catch against the Dodgers on Sunday. No, this time Harper would channel his inner Rick Ankiel to throw a Paul Goldschmidt flyout home on an absolute bullet to keep third-base runner Jason Kubel from running. And like Ankiel, Harper earned a standing ovation for a throw that didn’t even record an out.
And then he did it at the plate. You remember the stellar patience and excellent batter’s eye that Harper showed in the ninth inning against the Dodgers this last weekend, and he did it again. After getting into an 0-2 count, Harper worked 3 straight balls and allowed Danny Espinosa (who had drawn a walk in the prior at-bat) to reach second. And then the power came. Curse that tall right-center wall. Had this been some other ballparks, I would’ve had the honor of recapping true history; Bryce Harper’s first major league home run. But instead Harper took the full count inside pitch just inches (probably four or five) from the seats. It turned into his second double of the year, and tied the game at 2.
“Wow, Harper had a great game!” Well yes, but he still wasn’t done. The batter was Wilson Ramos, and he didn’t get it done. But yet, he did. It was a ground ball to second base, but Hill muffed it, allowing Ramos to reach first. But, Harper wasn’t content with just advancing to third. In fact, he never even slowed down. Harper darted from second all the way to home plate, but the ball beat him there by a good three feet.
But this is Bryce Harper, and he’s not going down without a fight. So, he slid into home and put his hands up. His hand projected forward, and were thrown into the glove of catcher Miguel Montero, knocking the ball lose, allowing Harper to score. 3-2 Washington.
And then it was Arizona again. It seemed that momentum was in favor of the Nats, but apparently momentum has a short attention span. After a scoreless fifth from both sides, the D’backs struck back with 2 more runs in the sixth courtesy of a Goldschmidt double and a Ryan Roberts single. That would be it for Jackson, and Craig Stammen would come in to relieve in the seventh. Stammen would cruise through 2 scoreless, striking out 1 and inducing a double play in the eighth.
The bottom of the eighth saw the first two men of the inning reach base, but it would be a wasted offensive opportunity as the next three batters (Adam LaRoche, Jesus Flores, Espinosa) would be retired in order.
It seemed like de ja vu when Harper hit a laser off the right field wall once again in the bottom of the ninth; the second time we thought it was gone. But, he would reach second again, bringing Ramos to the plate. Ramos would go down on four pitches, failing to advance Harper, passing the task of tying the game to the pinch-hitting Ankiel. After working the count 1-2 like Ramos, Ankiel would also go down, giving Ian Desmond the chance to be the hero; Harper in scoring position, two down.
Desmond came into the at-bat hitting 1-4 on the day, with a double in the first inning. However, he would double (no pun intended) his hit total for the game, and would do so in style. On the 1-2 count (yes, that was a ninth-inning motif, wasn’t it…), Desmond sent an absolute bomb to deep left-center, right to the feet of the remaining D’back bullpen arms, just to rub it in a little bit more. Harper scores, Desmond jumps Michael Jordan-style dunking his helmet, landing on home plate. Nats win 5-4 in walk-off fashion.
Champ of the Game: Ian Desmond: He went 2-5 including the clutch 1-2 count, 2-out, 2-run walk-off homer to give the Nats the comeback victory. I’ll let the video highlights speak for themselves.
For the Diamondbacks, Ryan Roberts had 2 RBIs on the night, leading the team in that category.
Chump of the Game: This award goes to Adam LaRoche, Jesus Flores and Danny Espinosa, all incapable of capitalizing on the two base runners to kick off the eighth inning. These three were retired in order and the runners never left their bases.
Considering the all-around quality of play this evening, J.J Putz gets the award for the D’Backs, blowing the save in the ninth.
Unsung Hero: Well, he’s not unsung, but he deserves mention in this section and Desmond is the champ. It’s Bryce Harper taking the cake tonight, after going 3-4 with 2 doubles, 2 runs, an RBI and some stellar defense. Fun stat, Harper collected 60% of his big-league hits in tonights game.
Miguel Montero collected three knocks for the D’Backs, so he gets the award this evening. Being on base is always an important part of a team’s offense!