He could've come to a stop on second base, giving Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche a crack at bringing in the game-tying run. Instead, Harper made a turn for third and was gunned out on a strong relay throw from shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
What say you, Davey Johnson? Was going for third the right play in that situation?
"No," Johnson said, "and I talked to him later in the ballgame. I love his aggressiveness and whatever, but when you've got the middle of the lineup coming up behind you (and) you get in scoring position, if you go, you've got to make sure it's no contest. He's just a young, aggressive player and I like to see it, but that's a case where we're in a situation I need you in scoring position."
Harper's aggressiveness is part of what makes him such a special player and so fun to watch, but there will be times where it also hurts him. It's just a matter of finding the line between aggressive and smart, and Johnson feels that line wasn't properly straddled on that play in the fifth.
Zimmerman went 0-for-4 today, dropping his average to .233 on the season. The Nats' third baseman also grounded into a double play in a big spot with runners on first and second and no outs in the eighth, which spoiled what looked like could be a huge inning.
It was the eighth time in 38 games this season Zimmerman grounded into a double play. As a point of comparison, Zimmerman grounded into 16 double plays in 142 games in 2010.
"I talked to him, and I feel like he's close," Johnson said. "He feels like he's just inching closer to feeling comfortable up there. He's a big guy in our lineup. We need him comfortable, and I'm sure ... he's too good a hitter to continue to struggle."
Is Zimmerman's shoulder still plaguing him?
"It might be, but he's not going to say anything about it," Johnson said. "He knows his importance to this ballclub, and he's out there as a gamer. I'm sure he'll be fine."
And Michael Morse, who is now 0-for-8 with three strikeouts since coming back from a lat injury?
"He's going to be fine," Johnson said. "It's just a matter of getting comfortable, feeling like he's seeing the ball. I think he's seeing the ball all right. He was a little anxious the first day, and they're making pretty good pitches on him. He's too good a hitter ... to continue struggling."
Johnson said he felt Gio Gonzalez had good stuff today, but just lacked command. Gonzalez went just 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with three walks, five strikeouts and two wild pitches. His pitch count elevated quickly, and he ended up throwing a whopping 91 pitches.
"His command was way off today," Johnson said. "He really couldn't get the ball in, and he wasn't using the inside of the plate. Just a rare occasion that he didn't have pretty good command and today was one of them. We came out in pretty good shape. I thought the way we started the ballgame, we were going to score some runs, and it seemed to die after that first inning. But, tough game. They've got a good ballclub, and their guy bounced back and pitched a heck of a ballgame."