Harper’s in the hit column (Nats lose in 10 innings)

After starting his major league career by going 0-for-2, Bryce Harper found his way into the hit column.

And he did it in style.

Up with two outs in the seventh inning, Harper smoked a 3-2 belt-high fastball from Chad Billingsley to straight-away center field. The ball was hit so hard that, despite the fact it looked like it barely got more than 25-30 feet off the ground, it traveled all the way to the base of the wall in center.

Harper sprinted around first, and as he approached second, intentionally knocked his helmet off, thinking it might slow him down if he decided to turn toward third. But Harper slammed on the brakes at second base, settling for a double as his first major league hit.

The phenom was stranded at second when Stephen Strasburg struck out two batters after the Harper double, but the Nationals have a 1-0 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh, thanks to Adam LaRoche’s solo home run.

LaRoche now has a homer in back-to-back nights and continues to carry the Nats’ offense.

Update: After notching his first major league hit in the top of the seventh, Harper nearly made the defensive play of the game in the bottom half of the inning.

With runners on first and second and one out, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis smacked a single to left. Harper charged the ball and delivered an absolute strike to the plate, his throw reaching catcher Wilson Ramos’ mitt on a fly.

Ramos was in perfect position to tag out Jerry Hairston Jr. for the out, but Hairston knocked the ball out of Ramos’ glove and tagged home to tie the score.

It’s a shame Ramos couldn’t hang on to the ball, partly because the score is now tied 1-1 entering the eighth, but also because Harper deserved to be credited with his first major league outfield assist. His throw was so good, it was Rick Ankiel-like.

Unfortunately, it ends up not mattering, as the Nats and Dodgers are all square.

Update II: Is this fitting, or what?

Up in the ninth inning with the go-ahead runner at third and one out, Harper ripped the first pitch he saw to left field. The ball was brought in by left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., but his throw to the plate wasn’t in time to get Rick Ankiel tagging from third.

In his major league debut, Harper’s first career RBI gave the Nats the lead in the ninth inning. In Los Angeles. This is a special night.

Wilson Ramos added an RBI single to make the score 3-1 as we head to the bottom of the ninth.

Update III: We’re going to extras.

Henry Rodriguez had allowed just one hit and no earned runs through 8 1/3 innings this season entering tonight, but we got Bad Henry in the ninth inning, as he allowed two runs on three hits and three wild pitches to allow the Dodgers to tie the game.

It’s 3-3 as we head to the 10th, and at least for now, Harper’s Cinderella Story debut has been put on hold.

Final Update: Ballgame. Matt Kemp crushed a solo homer to deep center off Tom Gorzelanny leading off the bottom of the 10th inning, and the Harper heroics and strong start by Strasburg are for naught.

The Dodgers win 4-3.

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