Huge Sixth Inning Carries Nationals in Bryce Harper’s Return


Jun 30, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) rounds second base and eventually scores during the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday night, the Washington Nationals finally had their full starting lineup on the field for the first time since the seventh inning of Opening Day against the New York Mets, when Wilson Ramos went down with a broken hammate bone in his left hand. Since then, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez have all made trips to the disabled list and have returned, culminating in Harper’s Monday return from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, suffered April 28th against the Padres.

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With Harper’s return, the Nats lineup dramatically improves into one of the better lineups in baseball. The Nationals made the decision to activate the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft from the DL on Monday after Harper went 4-5 with three long home runs in a Doulbe-A game on Saturday.

Harper’s effect on the lineup showed immediately on Monday, when the Nats offense broke out in a win against the Colorado Rockies. Harper went 1-3 with a walk, run and RBI in the game but Zimmerman, making his return to third base after nearly a month out in left field, went 3-4 in the victory.

Entering the bottom of the sixth, Rockies starter Yohan Flande had kept the Nats lineup mostly at bay, as Colorado led 2-1. However, Anthony Rendon singled to lead off the frame, and Jayson Werth followed with a walk. After Flande struck out LaRoche, Rockies manager Walt Weiss pulled his starter in favor of right-handed reliever Rob Scahill. Zimmerman greeted the righty with a line-drive double to left to score Rendon and tie the game. After Harper was intentionally walked to load the bases, Desmond followed with a double to score three runs. The hit increased Desmond’s average with the bases loaded to .444 (24-54)—a big reason why he already has 49 RBI.

Jordan Zimmermann started the game for Washington and went six innings, allowing two runs to earn the victory and improve to 6-4.  With the victory, the Nationals remain a half-game behind the Atlanta Braves for first-place in the NL East.